Having teenage and college-age children in my house is educational.
One of my intentions as a mother has been to cultivate an atmosphere where my children had the freedom to tell me anything…everything if they were only willing. I realize the latter is a lofty goal and not likely to be the case, but everything isn’t really the hope, anyway; anything is.
Practiced advice handed down to me from a mom just a few years my senior formulated my “tell anything” philosophy when my children were still in grade school: “Don’t react when your children tell you something shocking.”
Martha’s counsel has proven easier said than done at times, but I’ve never forgotten it. For years I’ve tried to listen with open ears and an inexpressive but engaged face, to invite the stories I wanted to hear, the stories they’re desperate to tell. The freedom to share helped them process Hard Things and figure out how to respond without fear.
Sex, drugs, alcohol, cutting, food disorders, pregnancy–even when it’s among the Youth Group set. Especially when it’s among the Youth Group set. No reaction.
I’ve learned children are most inclined to share when they feel neither judgment or condemnation, whether its directed at them or their friends. They’re less likely to tell you anything if every conversation invites you to step on a soap box or lecture about virtue or question another’s salvation. Quoting Bible verses will keep them from telling you the next time, too.
The moments are sacred when a child allows you to enter their world.
It is in everyone’s interest for you to remember you have two ears and one mouth and you should use them in that proportion. Listen twice as much as you speak. At least.
* * * * *
With all this in mind, the stage had long been set when my college-aged daughter asked me if I knew what a Power Hour was. It was clear she wasn’t talking about anything remotely related to Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral, the first thing that came to my mind.
She explained, “It’s when you drink as much as you can in an hour and then hook up with someone.”
(No reaction, Robin…no reaction….)
It’s important to add here I wasn’t worried about this as it relates to my daughter; she’s one of those rare creatures who has made a lifetime of choices setting her squarely in the path of Purity, not for purity’s sake or to please her parents, but because she’s convinced this is what God desires.
In that instant, though, my heart ached for the countless teens and 20-somethings who make that choice every day. Drink as much as you can in an hour and give yourself away. Some mother’s son…some mother’s daughter.
She wasn’t telling me because she knew anyone who takes part in a power hour; she wanted to tell me about her friends’ redemption of the Power Hour: how a few young people in her sphere are reclaiming that phrase for good, who have re-imagined it in a way that drips of the Gospel. Good news.
What is their version?
A group of friends set aside one hour to pour words of encouragement into one another–kindness, attentiveness…life…love. The essence of 1 Thessalonians 5:11:
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” (ESV)
Interestingly, they begin with physical attributes; not general “you look pretty today” but features and mannerisms and the things that distinguish who we are. The things we do we don’t even realize we do or maybe the things we don’t like about ourselves…or even the good things no one has ever named (but you’re dying to hear).
From there they move on to character; affirming the good things they’ve observed in one another, calling out strengths and talents and giftings they’ve witnessed, likely when no one knew they were looking. How they treat people, work ethic, how they spend their time, how they’re maturing in the faith.
For a solid hour, those present take turns building one another up. Encouraging, positive, life-sustaining words. They dwell on what is:
- worthy of praise
the embodiment of Philippians 4:8 (ESV).
Rather than drink for an hour and rob another (and self!) of purity, dignity and respect, they pour into each other for an hour and offer grace, affirmation and beauty.
The world is full of negative messages that can seed insecurity and doubt. Couple that with how cruel and thoughtless we can be to one another at times. (And this isn’t limited to teens and 20-somethings!) To counter that, what if you planned a Power Hour of your own? What if you set aside an hour on a regular basis – whatever regular means to you – and poured life and love and living water into your children or spouse or a small group of friends? Or if you’re a leader who works with a campus ministry or high school or middle school youth group–why not have a Power Hour the next time you gather together?
Q. Parents: How do you react when your children tell you shocking news? How are you cultivating an atmosphere for your children to speak freely? If you aren’t, what steps will you take to give them this freedom? If you’re willing, share examples of Hard Things your children shared and how your responded.
Friends: Could you use a Power Hour? Do you realize you’re in a pattern of negative-speak with the people around you–family, friends, co-workers? What specifically can we do to redeem our words for our good and God’s glory?
With love and gratefulness to the One who gives us only Good Words,