Parents of middle-school age children, I have a question: Where are theyt?
I don’t mean where are they physically. What I am asking is, where your children are emotionally and spiritually?
A recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer reminded me of how affected our young people continue to be by the stresses of the pandemic. The authors, both mental health professionals, write, “Some of our young patients are stressed that they will get infected and worry that they will bring it home to their parents and grandparents, especially as they go back to school. Some refuse to leave their homes and have chosen remote instruction for another year. Overwhelming worrying and fear interfering with daily life are symptoms of an anxiety disorder. As adolescent medicine specialists, we’re seeing increased anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).”
Last year I witnessed, up close, middle schoolers who were formerly happy and well-adjusted develop debilitating afflictions, such as Tourette Syndrome, in a matter of just a few months after the pandemic began due to stress and isolation. Things are even worse now because 1) some children are too young to be vaccinated, which increases their level of anxiety, and 2) their parents may be militantly opposed to the vaccine and stonewalling the teens’ own desires to receive it. The fact is that depression among young people is rising dramatically. We grownups have coping mechanisms that they haven’t developed yet. Anything could happen to them. So I ask you, parents: Is doing nothing an option?
One clarion call for hope that some Pennsylvania communities have begun to hear is this phrase: “You Are Enough.” The phrase calls for more open conversations on the taboo subject of teen suicide. But here is what I really want to tell you: Jesus said this first, and he said it better. He welcomed everyone with open arms. He never rejected anyone for any reason, no matter how far society had cast them out. In fact, he loved most of all those who had been pushed to the farthest margins. This unconditional love, boundless forgiveness and total acceptance is what confirmation is all about. Maybe you remember your confirmation experience it as a dry, dusty exercise in memorization. Not that those memory verses weren’t important. But in 2021, mid-pandemic, we don’t have time to make memorization our top priority. That honor goes to your children’s lives.
Confirmation is not a subject, but rather a place – a spiritual place where, together, your children and I can explore their deepest questions, their darkest fears, and their most cherished hopes in a context that is supportive, collegial, and absolutely confidential. Yes, we have a “curriculum,” because we must. But the real subject of confirmation is your children’s spiritual and emotional well-being. What we “do” in confirmation awakens in them the awareness that they are NEVER alone because Christ walks with them every step of the way in unconditional love and forgiveness. Whatever topic we are considering in a given week, this is always the larger context.
All human life rests on the foundation of faith in Jesus Christ, the one who would not take death’s “no” for an answer, the one who showers us with the reality of new life at every turn. So, parents: Can you really afford to say “We don’t have room in our busy schedules for Confirmation this year,” or “Who cares about the church? No time for any of that.”
I hope and pray that some of you will say “yes” to confirmation, including those who are not currently part of our Grace family. This is a wonderful way to become connected to a congregation that lives out Jesus’ assurance of abundant life. I look forward to hearing from you!
May the peace of Christ be with you always,
Pastor Nancy Raabe