“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. (Matthew 5:11)
I did a lot of substitute teaching at our local high school this past month, which put me right in the middle of many of America's young teenagers. What I heard in the classrooms and the hallways startled me and catapulted me right into the reality of their world today. Following the latest school shooting where a courageous young man stepped in front of the shooter and lost his life saving others, I heard the kids saying things like, "Wow, I really HAVE to get prepared to take a bullet for my friends." It seemed such a shocking thing to hear kids discussing. In my generation we talked about getting in trouble because our skirts didn't measure long enough! How has this world become so harsh and evil that our children are trying to prepare for the next school shooting?
My heart was even further pierced by the 9th grade health class. They had a speaker who came to talk with them about suicide prevention. She had a remarkable way of reaching these kids and getting them to open up and talk about their feelings. Apparently high-school age suicide has become a horrendously high statistic and it is one more fear these young people carry around in their heavy backpack of thoughts and anxieties. The speaker asked them if they feel uncomfortable talking to their parents about these things and if so, why. One young girl raised her hand and openly confessed, "Yes! I feel uncomfortable because my parents didn't grow up with social media and they don't understand. All day long on our phones we see other kids mocking us, making fun of us, bullying us and it doesn't end. When our parents got home from school, they were in a safe place at home where it all stopped and they could relax and talk to each other. But now it doesn't stop, because the mocking goes on all evening and all night on Instagram and Facebook and we never get away." Gently, the speaker responded, "I understand. I've been asking kids why they don't turn the dang phones off when they get home and they say, 'Because our parents are on THEIR phones all evening, so we just stay on ours too.'"
As I left the classroom, my heart so heavy for these kids, I noticed the signs attached to the walls along the hallways that read, "PUT IT DOWN AND LOOK AROUND." Cell phones. We marvel at the technology, the instantaneous source of information, the ability to text someone and get an answer immediately, the fun of connecting with friends and family. But what has it done to this young generation? They can't put it down. They are addicted - and even if they are strong enough to put it down and "look around" and talk to one another, they've lost the ability to openly, genuinely communicate, face-to-face. They are in some sort of bondage to this little device that's attached to their pocket or their purse and the mocking and the bullying doesn't end. Maybe we are ALL in this bondage!
My heart is heavy about this and as I watched my precious grandson walk in with all his classmates and graduate from high school yesterday, I felt a great pride and possibility swell up in my heart for him and for this generation; but I also felt a profound sorrow for what they must overcome. Especially those like my grandson, who love the Lord and openly confess him, they will face persecution and mocking such as my generation never knew. My grandson spoke at the Baccalaureate service and he urged his fellow seniors, "As you go off to colleges and universities and military service and workplaces, don't abandon your faith. Share your faith. You are going to need Jesus to stay strong! You are going to need the Rock to stand on!" I'm so grateful he is strong in his faith and I pray with all my heart that he and so many others his age will grasp and cling to the words of the Lord when He reminds us that people mock us, say evil things about us and insult us because of HIM!" The insults and evil inclinations come from Satan, and they are being hurled at Jesus and all who believe in Him. But greater is He who is within us than he who is in the world!
Kelly Ferrari Mills