By Chris Bates
Choose Your Path
We held hands and stood only a few feet away from a massive 12-foot alligator. Twice a year my daughter and I would have an adventurous camping getaway, and on this particular state park trip, we hiked over to the alligator enclosure and stood next to the fence in awe. It was one of those times as a father that I was gratefully watching her more than the adventure around us, knowing that these childhood experiences would all too soon be gone.
Now that she is a senior in high school and getting ready to begin her young adult life, just imagine the possibilities. In a sense, she has been in training all this time and is about to step onto the course on her own. Although I, and other adults in her life, will always be here and continue to shape her, the foundational work is done. She has heard from me for many years about making the right decisions based on having God in her heart. Psalm 78 tells us that, “We teach our children, so that they in turn will tell their children, then they would put their trust in God.” That is our greatest mission as parents, and now my daughter and the other high schoolers like her can accept that mission and run!
The earthly influences today are faster and more treacherous than ever. Every generation faces the same kinds of life challenges, but young adults now have it in their hands constantly and it comes through their screens relentlessly. It seems that making the wrong decisions can happen more quickly than ever. There is good news that goes with that also. Sharing influence, leadership, integrity, and triumphs can go viral, too. As teenage personalities become young adult personalities, having positive effects on the people, friends and the world around them is awesome to watch. By picking up the basic tools at their feet, they can each in their own unique way begin to impact the world around them.
While we witness our modern environment that includes school shootings and so many questions unanswered about young people, there is also a fierceness and determination not to just succeed, but to make their personal and global world better. If that set of tools is centered on faith anything is possible. C.S. Lewis wrote, “It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.” Our graduates can look over their shoulders at their younger siblings and friends and say, “Watch this,” and use opportunity after opportunity to share their faith and good decisions. Social media can let them be excited about saying, “See, I can do this!” They can face challenges that will surely come, and shout back to those of us that love and have hope for them that “Hey, my friends and I have got this!” One post at a time, by one text or hug or smile to each other, they can bring Christ forward, conquer fear, be courageous, and make their own path of triumph.
What our daughters and sons see around them in the years ahead will not look like what we see today. The colors of their world will look different, they will find new technologies, forcefully ensure equality, and form new feelings of community. They can choose that Christ-centered personality and choose to not hate, and even demand the same from others around them. They can fill college campuses, their workplaces, and even their families to come with living examples of faith amidst fear, strength among uncertainty, and light among darkness. We hope that they choose the mantra given to us in Acts 26:16 where Christ challenges us, “Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you and appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me.”
So, to our graduates and upcoming young adults, choose your personality. Challenge your faith. Get up and stand on your feet. Serve the person standing next to you right now, and tomorrow get up and do it again. Witness what you have seen and share it. Love others so passionately that it surprises them. We have watched you and raised you, but ultimately you are not our children, you are His. Choose your path and run straight down it fiercely without fear or hesitation. He will be with you.
Chris is President & Founder of Agora Company, a marketing, website, and advertising company based in Jackson, and can be reached at Chris@AgoraCompany.com. He and his wife, Stacy, and their children live in Madison.