As the mother of two teenagers, I have done my fair share of head shaking. Baggy pants, brightly colored hair, painful piercings, ridiculous Snapchats…I could go on and on. Kids these days, right?
On the day of my son’s car accident there were kids coming to the hospital in droves. Now don’t get me wrong, there were adults in the hospital, too. Our parents, our pastor, friends, neighbors… all waiting in a room meant for exactly that purpose. Our parents worried about us getting enough rest. Our friends brought crackers and bottled water to keep us nourished and hydrated. Our peers were there to lend us their support in this time of tragedy. But you won’t believe what the kids were doing.
The first two that were allowed into the intensive care unit to see our son were friends he had known since preschool. These three were so close; they referred to each other as ‘brothers.’ When I walked in to let them know their 5-minute visiting window was up, I was speechless. While one boy had his hand rested on my son’s arm, the other was reading from his phone….”and though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me….” How do you tell teenage boys that are reading scripture to your paralyzed son that they have to leave the room?
I dried my eyes and went back to the waiting room, where other kids were pairing off, after hearing of the ICU visiting regulations. Some girls from our church’s youth group were standing together by the elevator. When two of them started to approach me, I assumed they were going to ask about their turn to visit my son. Two weeks earlier these girls had spent an afternoon in a pasture playing a spirited game of ‘capture the flag,’ with my children. But what they said that day in the waiting room captured my heart. They asked if they could form a prayer circle around my husband, daughter and me. How could we say no to such a beautiful request? As the youth group members circled around us, many of the other teenagers that had been waiting, joined in as well. As I closed my eyes in prayer, the voice that I heard belonged to a 14-year old girl, asking God to give us strength for the upcoming days, weeks, and months. Her voice was strong and confident and one I will never forget.
Two days after the accident, I was sitting on a cot near my son’s bed, waiting for him to be taken to yet another surgery. When I heard my phone chime, I reached for it, and opened up the text message. I remember smiling and crying at the same time as I looked at a photo of the high school student body gathered around the flagpole at the school. Hands connected, the students were bowing their heads, and the message read, “We are praying for your son!” Prayer at school…something that was almost taboo. But in this case, the students had insisted.
Later that day, while my son was in recovery, a card was delivered to his room. It was from a friend he had worked with the summer before. They hadn’t known each other very long, which made what was written inside so touching. It read, “Hey Bro, if I could, I would take this from you. I believe that God still has a perfect plan for your life. I am so glad you are alive!” My tears dripped on the card, and I felt bad that I didn’t know this friend better. But that was about to change.
On the third day, this friend messaged me on Facebook, asking me if my son had accepted Jesus into his life. Yes. No? I was embarrassed that I couldn’t answer. But he took my uncertainty as an invitation. An hour later he appeared in the waiting room with a leather-bound Bible and asked if he could see him. When he emerged from the ICU hallway and headed toward the elevator, he turned to me, and nodded ‘yes.’ I watched the elevator doors close and found myself feeling so extremely grateful…grateful that God had put these kids in our lives. We were blessed!
The next time you find yourself shaking your head at a group of teenagers, take a deep breath and try this. Look beyond their hair color and past their piercings or sagging clothes. Try looking into their hearts. What’s inside could make a huge difference in someone’s life. A difference that could affect an eternity.
Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it.