I have a teen-ager, and I love him very much. But sometimes he does try my patience! I've learned from observing, however, that he almost invariably wants to do the right thing - to be neat, thoughtful, to get his homework done, and so on. But above all else, he wants to be treated with respect and love even when he isn't doing everything right. The worst offenses against him are to assume he has a bad motive and to speak with disrespect toward him. If I correct him lovingly with reason and respect, he always responds in a way that shows he cares about the moral and spiritual values I want to impart to him - even if it takes him a while to respond!
My wife and I have become convinced of the benefits of letting God, divine Love, govern the relationship of parents to teenagers - and to each other. The Bible gives ample instruction as to how parents can do this and thereby provide an atmosphere of love and harmony in the home. The practice of Christ Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, for example, is essential. So is an understanding of what the Scriptures say about God and about our relationship to Him.
The Bible tells us that God is Father, the Parent of us all. ''Have we not all one father?'' n1 we read in Malachi. The Scriptures also picture the motherhood of God. In a very tender passage in Deuteronomy, in reference to Jacob, who was symbolic of God's people, we read: ''As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.'' n2
n1 Malachi 2:10.
n2 Deuteronomy 32:11,12.
And we learn through the Bible and the teachings of Christian Science that God is not only the source of love but Love itself. We all, in our true identities, are children of God, of Love. ''The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.'' n3
n3 Romans 8:16, 17.
As these divine facts are accepted, they begin to govern parents' every thought and action. Teen-agers need, more than all else, an atmosphere of love in the home that springs from an understanding of divine Love as the sole creator and governor of man.
Actions and motives that express caring, unselfishness, thoughtfulness, spiritual joy, actually originate in Love. What a sad mistake not to recognize and live according to the love that God provides! It is as ever present as the air we breathe. Human affection that exhibits the love of God is, in fact, essential to a happy life.
We hear increasingly of problem teenagers - runaways, alcoholics, drug addicts, those who commit or attempt suicide. In some cases they are fleeing homes that lack practical contact with God. On television recently I heard an interview with a teen-age girl who was just completing an alcohol rehabilitation program. She had tried to commit suicide at one point in her life. She said she had never felt accepted by her parents or her peers. How can we help such teen-agers?
One thing we can do now is to pray, recognizing that all individuals are the loved children of God. Such prayer, holding in view the true nature of man as spiritual, cared for, inseparable from Love, will be a practical, effective help to those in need. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, has made it the duty of members of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, to pray each day: '' 'Thy kingdom come;' let the reign of divine Truth, Life, and Love be established in me, and rule out of me all sin; and may Thy Word enrich the affections of all mankind, and govern them!'' n4
n4 Manual of The Mother Church, Article VIII, Section 4.
God's love, felt and reflected through the prayerful realization that we are all, in truth, the children of God, can help mightily to reverse negative trends in homes and in societies. The resurrection itself was possible because of the inspired, practical affection that Christ Jesus demonstrated for all mankind. No less an example backs up our own commitment. DAILY BIBLE VERSE He that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8