A Note to 14-Year-Old Kelly

Posted by Kelly.Staples on May 13, 2014

Last week, Brent wondered what the NorthPark bloggers would say to their 14-year-old selves. Mine's easy.

"Kelly, do not cut your hair into a bob. Your hair is too curly to pull it off, and it will take two years of wearing it in a frizzy puff ball until it looks good again!"

Since this is the church blog, however, I'm assuming he meant what would we say to our 14-year-old selves about our faith. That's a little more complex.

Here's why: most 14-year-olds I know are questioning their faith in some fashion. I have been blown away by the depth of thought and discernment that our NorthPark youth have shown. I was not one of those kids. I was confirmed at age 12.

Did I have faith questions? Not really. I just didn't care. I was indifferent to faith. (Not church mind you; I loved my church community. I actually thought church would be way more fun without all the boring religious stuff.) So here are the two things I would say to 14-year-old, couldn't care less, Kelly:

#1: Church does not have to be boring.

Stop reading the Bible in monotone and read it like a real story. Just because it's holy doesn't mean it can't be funny, exciting, infuriating, and interesting.

Ask questions. Not just, "what does this text mean to me?" Ask stuff like, "Who is Jesus talking to here?" when it's not clear. "Why do the disciples accept that as an answer?" when it's confusing. "What is that guy talking about?" when you don't understand the "lesson." And "what did that mean back then?"

Because as much as we talk about the Bible being classic and speaking to us in different ways, there is a particular historical and social context that these stories take place in. 90% of the stories in the Bible are drastically changed when you take the context into account. I promise you, this book gets less boring with the more you know.

#2: So you don't care about faith right now, that's okay. God is not on your radar. But you should form some opinions on things like God, Christ, death, evil, and the meaning of life.

I'm not saying you need to have everything figured out (spoiler alert: it's not possible) but eventually you'll experience pain and grief, and you need a starting point. You can be angry at God all you want. You can rage and wail. Understand that you will eventually care about this God stuff, even if the experience is completely negative.

When the world spits you out, you will care. So build a foundation now, while the ground is still steady.

Think about things, ponder impossible questions, store quotations and nuggets of wisdom that you like; angrily scribble journal entries about what you disagree with. Make a spiritual first aid kit that you can reference when you can no longer trust anyone or anything. When times are good again, you can go right back to building.

You don't have to agree with everyone around you. Sometimes it's best if you don't, but engage with them anyway. Because here's the thing, Kelly, you're not really indifferent. You're scared. Scared it's all fake. Scared it's all real. Scared you'll have to do something.

You're scared you're going to be let down. And you have every right to be, because you're right. Your faith is going to let you down.

Then you'll start all over and be stronger than before.

So dear, sweet Kelly, who slept her way through confirmation class and who believes overalls are an appropriate fashion statement, you are a child of God and you matter. Your faith is a journey and these are your first steps.

And seriously, don't listen to your stylist. You will never live down that haircut.

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