I woke up an hour before my alarm went off, skipped breakfast and changed my outfit three times. It was the first day of high school, and I was 14 and freaked out. Excited about cute boys, worried about the accelerated Algebra class that I accidentally tested into and terrified of varsity soccer tryouts, I just couldn’t fathom how everything I knew was about to get so much bigger, faster and more important.
Why do I remember that day so clearly even though it was decades ago? High school marked a pivotal time in my teenage development and proved to be a landmark of growth in the development of my own value system and faith. It’s when I was able to start making the personal choices, good or bad, that shaped my future, molded my character and defined me as an individual in the fast and furious culture of almost-adulthood. I think I sensed the responsibility and freedom I was about to walk into.
High school is so memorable because that’s when we engaged in those “first” events, the life moments that forced us to decide where we would go for our strength, and more importantly, for our information. After that first heartbreak, a brave social risk or an athletic challenge that didn’t go our way, who did we look to for approval or for that final word on what’s OK and what’s not?
An array of sources that claim to be the ultimate in “what’s cool” or “what’s right” will start competing for your teenager’s attention when they enter high school. Friends, parties, sports, clubs, styles and trends and political persuasions are all wonderful and enriching in their rightful place but are often used as inappropriate sources of approval or identity. It’s so important that a high schooler have a preestablished authority on all they’re about to encounter, and that they know going in whose opinion will be the one that determines their self-worth and the way they treat those around them. A biblical worldview and a clear understanding of who they are in the eyes of their Creator is the firmest foundation you could help them build.
The challenges that come at your teenager in the next few years can present like an overwhelming amount of hurdles and obstacles. These are the times to remind a high school student that God doesn’t want them to suffer from fear or anxiety. He says in Joshua 1:9 (NIV),
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.
So how did my first day of high school go? The boys were even cuter than I’d hoped, Algebra II was every bit as challenging as I’d imagined it would be and I puked on my new soccer cleats after running the first few laps at tryouts. The good news? I had a personal faith at a very young age, and because I walked with God as my guide through that time, I had the strength and peace needed to navigate the emotions and decisions that the teenage years brought. If you have a teenager starting high school in the fall that is open to your guidance in their faith life, here is a prayer you can give them to offer up as their own.
I commit this new phase of my life to you. Please help me establish appropriate priorities in all the new areas of my life that I will have to balance. Help me manage my time, invest in the right relationships and be diligent with the things I commit to and the responsibilities given to me. Help me show your kindness to everyone — those I get along with and those I don’t. Please remind me every time there’s a challenge that your approval is all that matters. When I face tough decisions and things that make me unsure, please grant me wisdom and peace. Help me walk boldly through the halls, not with arrogance or pride, but with a confident humility a graceful composure that comes from knowing that my God approves of me, delights in me, and has a purpose for my life. Help me to be grateful for the blessings and things that come easy and to be diligent through the challenges. Grow me and shape me into a person that honors you, so that when I graduate from high school, I am equipped and hopeful for all that lies before me.
In your name I pray,