One of the highlights of our time in London was a Christian Heritage Tour. I was especially moved by this wall, a memorial tucked into the back corner of a church park. It was to commemorate the heroic acts of people who sacrificed their lives for someone else.
I think what touched me most about this Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice was the fact that so many of the heroes were young people.
One story was of Alice Ayres, a 25 year old who rescued three young children from a burning building, going back into the flame to get one child out after another, and eventually lost her own life.
John Clinton, age 10, who drowned near London Bridge trying to save a child younger than himself.
David Selves, age 12, who drowned while trying to keep another boy afloat.
Henry Bristrow, age 8, who died trying to extinguish a fire from his sister’s clothing which had caught fire.
Amelia Kennedy, age 19, who died trying to save her sister from their burning house.
George Blencowe, age 16, who died trying to save a drowning friend.
I guess what really struck me was that we’ve become a culture that expects nothing of our teens. Even in the church, the average person almost expects rebellion and dismisses it as the result of hormones or age or peers.
We aren’t surprised by disrespectful talk, immoral behavior, imitation of the ungodly elements of the world, or even passive rebellion.
And yet, here this quiet memorial stands and reminds us that our kids can take the high road, do right, and that we can expect more of them. They can live and die for someone else.
As Christian moms, we do our teens a disservice when we expect nothing of them as though they are unable to live by God’s ways.
Instead of teaching them that their young heart wants to function from THE default setting of all mankind,rebellion and self-rule because of the fall, we pander and make excuses, really paralyzing them from the self-discovery they really need: all of our hearts are rebellious, no matter what age, and we all need the restraint and rule of our Creator.
Over the years in youth ministry, I’ve seen parents blame rebellion on a myriad of things: legalistic expectations enforced on children, super intellect that needed to find expression, deep hurt from adults that should have helped the child but abandoned them, peers who led them astray.
These parents are setting these kids up to fail by excusing and deluding them to the universal truth of all men: we are desperately wicked and want self-rule and self-fulfillment. Not one of us bends easily to external rules, because our hearts tell us that we need to be our own mini-gods.
Until we come to the conclusion that our teens are passively or actively rebellious because they have the common ailment of the entire human race, a corrupt heart that needs redemption first, then submission and reliance on Christ, we’re going to spend our lives making excuses and expecting nothing from this whole generation.
This memorial was a breath of fresh air. It reminded me that all of us, no matter what age, can live self-less, heroic lives. And it reminded me of the need to teach our kids that successful Christian lives are dependent on our willingness to submit our stubborn hearts to God’s will and ways, no matter what our age.