What If I Had Known the Love of Jesus as a Teenager?

What If I Had Known the Love of Jesus as a Teenager? BY Charlotte Getz for Core Christianity

If I look back at my high school self as if I were watching the movie version of my life from the safety of a faraway sofa, I see things more clearly now than I did then. With the distance of years and experience, I see a five-foot-eight, brown-haired wonder. She’s an Alabama girl at a New England boarding school, one of just a few students from outside the region. Walking to class wearing sandals through the snow, she seems fairly confident, if not a bit of a pied piper. Look closer and this girl’s eyes are taking in every detail of her surroundings like a trapped cat or an army spy surveying the battlefield. Who’s at what table? Why is the boy she likes sitting next to that girl? Does her tummy look flat enough in this shirt? And for the love of all things, pretend not to care what anyone thinks.

As a teenager, hidden beneath my whimsical, extroverted exterior was a girl squirming in her skin from the awful discomfort of trying to earn her worth on the world’s terms. She hoped if she made all the right moves, did everything to the letter, then like a lovable genie, God would grant her wishes. But she suspected she was failing; she wasn’t all that nice. She was white-knuckling her way through, desperately in need of rest, and looking high and low for anyone or anything to prove her worst fears wrong: that she was in fact valuable—boyfriend-less, bare feet, and all.

This same struggle rages deep in the hearts of teenagers everywhere. Without God as our true north, most of us spend our entire high school years looking to athletics, popularity, a unique skillset, or an attractive boyfriend or girlfriend to confirm our worth or “righteousness.” But what if none of these ambitions is attainable to begin with? And even if they are attainable, what happens when the relationship ends, we get cut from the team, or don’t get accepted into the college of our dreams? When the ground beneath our feet comes loose, what in this world is going to be our firm and unshakable foundation?

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Even as adults, we still struggle with this inclination to gather trophies. We cannot imagine that without one—or an entire case full—we’d be okay. But on the cross, Jesus says the unfathomable. He says I have made you okay, and it has nothing at all to do with your pitiful efforts. The message of the cross is not one of strength, but helplessness. In the cross, we must acknowledge once and for all that we cannot save ourselves; we cannot chisel and carve our own crooked hearts into anything like holy. On the cross, Jesus shouts with his last dying breath that everything that needs to be accomplished in this world has been done, by him: “It is finished” (John 19:30).

But this is not the heave-ho American way, is it? We have a historically strong discomfort in surrendering our lot to another. American teenagers are no exception.

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