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One-of-a-Kind Teens?

The Apostle Paul writes under the direction of the Holy Spirit in his epistle to the Romans in Chapter 12, Verse 2 that “Ye be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect Will of God”.

Now the word conform means to make similar and to bring into agreement. So Paul is saying quite simply not to become like the world in everything that we do, but to become like the Will of God. We must do God’s Will and not the things of this world.

Perhaps you find yourself saying right about now that this whole idea is easier said than done. After all, you say, the world always seems to be so much more appealing than conforming to God’s Will. The idea that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence would seem to apply here. Our human side always seems to desire all the “good’’ things that the world offers. And this is basically the battle that we all have to fight for our entire lives.

From what I remember from my teen years it also seems that young people quite often have a very real problem with this whole struggle. The battle starts early in our lives, and the teen years usually see the warfare reach a peak.

There are times when the rebellious nature cries out against all who represent authority in our lives. The last thing we want to hear is parents, brothers, sisters, friends, teachers, ministers or elders telling us we are in effect conforming to the world.

Young people often cry out that they just want to be left alone and given a chance to be themselves. I just want to be me is often the way it is put. Now there is nothing wrong with simply being yourself. We are all, after all, different. There are no two of us exactly alike. We are all one of a kind personalities.

But I am afraid that more times than not a teen’s cry to be left alone is just an attempt to be conformed to this world and not to the Will of God. There are times when we all need to be left alone; this is understandable. But in the long run, this approach really offers no solution to any of the problems that teens face.

Teens may come to the point of being obsessed with “being myself”. And any young person who plans to do just that by throwing off and disavowing all the contributing elements that went into making him just who and what he is, is mistaken. This is an unattainable goal, and it could be a very dangerous decision to try to accomplish. For you could quite possibly be ensnared by the sinfulness of this world.

Young people think sometimes that they can attain an original personality or a distinct identity by rejecting all of the influence that shaped them into being what they are.

A young person can only be success­ful in an attempt to become what God wants him to be by taking what he has been given and meshing it with what he has learned from his educational process. Each one of us owes so much to the world of our environment. The acceptance of each one’s heritage is essential to make a young person grow. We have to take both what we are and our heritage and interweave them together.

God has made us such that there is really no way that any of us can separate who we are from our past, they simply must go together. The Old Testament shows this so clearly. God was revealed time and time again throughout history as the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. There was a covenant estab­lished between God and His Church. There was a continuation as well as a heritage. The nation of Israel was known as the people of God because of this very promise. And that truth is still ours as Church today. We are God’s promise to make Abraham’s seed as the sand of the seashore and the stars of heaven.

As God’s people we can no more forget the past and its effect on us any more than a young person can forget his past when he tries to overcome the struggle of being himself. There would be little left of us if we tried to subtract everything that had been added to us over the years by those who have known us.

We cannot remove what we are, no matter how hard we may wish to do so. This is not to say, however, that we are stuck with the outcome of who we are even before we begin the struggle, as if there is nothing we can do about what we are. The responsibility rests with each of us to use what God has given us to produce good works to the glory and praise of His name, just as a sculptor uses clay or marble to create forms that are a joint product of the material and the artist.

We are unique in that we are both an individual and a part of a whole. We cannot reject either part without hurting both aspects. The only way we can become a complete person and Christian is to absorb the past into the present.

No person is totally original; after all, we all have natural parents. God on the other hand is completely original. He has no beginning or end. God is also the only one who can create something out of nothing. The greatest genius owes a debt to those who have gone on before him, he simply builds on their work. What we are we owe to those in the Church who have gone on before us, we simply build on what they have left to us. Our parents have, for a large part, given us this heritage as they were commanded by Scripture (Ps. 78:5). And we will in turn have to pass this on to the next generation.

We are badly mistaken to trample underfoot the heritage of the past simply because it comes from the older genera­tion, for we are really a product of that heritage. To try to wipe the slate clean, we would really be wiping out the very things that have been given us, by God, to work with.