Is leaving the church the same thing as leaving God?
Just days ago, I received this text message from a teenager struggling with finding Christian community. God is important to her. She’s a young woman with faith much stronger than many adults. And yet she still wonders how the church and God connect.
I probe a little further. Why is it that she wants to leave?
There’s not a simple answer, but what it boils down to is this:
The church isn’t helping her figure out who she is. Who God has created her to be.
I can’t count the number of conversations I’ve had with teens and young adults surrounding identity. We live in a culture where everything is about sex. Our entire identity is wrapped up in how sexy we are.
TV shows, movies, music, magazines, advertisements, commercials … they all portray an image of what we are supposed to look like. How we are supposed to act. What we are supposed to wear. If we dare to creep out of the norm, no one will love us. We will be deemed a prude. A conservative. A weirdo.
What an opportunity for the church to stand up and speak words of God’s grace!
Sadly the church has remained virtually silent on the subject. At best, the church says nothing. At worst, it proclaims that all things sexual are bad. Unless you’re married. And then it’s okay, as long as you don’t talk about it.
From the time we hit puberty, we begin to wonder why we feel the way we do.
Is it normal? Are we gross? Is something wrong with us?
Where the church is silent, we look to the world around us for answers. If the church won’t help us figure it out, maybe movies and music can. Or maybe our more experienced friends can help us along the way.
The church, in its silence, has lost its claim on sexuality. But in all actuality, the church should be the primary voice in the conversation about sexuality! After all, God has created us to be sexual beings. And declares it to be good! So why is the church so silent on the issue?
I get it. It’s a scary topic. And it’s messy. The topic of sexuality is all wrapped up in our bodies. And ever since Adam & Eve first ate the forbidden fruit, we’ve been ashamed of our bodies. We hide from God out of shame and fear. We forget that we are created good.
Our bodies are good. Our sexuality is good. It is a good and healthy part of who we are. But unlike what the world tries to tell us, our entire identity is not wrapped up in how sexy we are. Sexuality is only a part of who we are. A good part. A part worth talking about.
The subject isn’t going away. We can’t cover our eyes and hope young people figure it out on their own. We have to listen to what our young people are saying. We have to walk beside them along the messy road.
Like all areas of our life, there will be screw-ups along the way. We all make mistakes in the area of sexuality just like we make mistakes in other areas of our lives. And when they happen, the church has to be more willing to show the grace of God and less willing to simply say “fix it and move on.”
We can no longer pretend that sexuality is simple. Boldly acting on God’s grace, we must reclaim sexuality as a good and healthy part of who we are. Only then will we be able to help young people discover their true identities in Christ.