John Piper posted a letter he wrote several years ago to a teenager in his church about the slow transformation from insecure teenager to spiritually mature adult. It is mostly autobiographical but also includes some wise advice. The most encouraging thing to me was the fact that our teenagers do usually transform into spiritually mature adults, but it is a process, not a transformation:
My experience of coming out of an introverted, insecure, guilty, lustful, self-absorbed adolescent life was more like the emergence of a frog from a tadpole than a butterfly from a larva.
Larvae disappear into their cocoons and privately experience some inexplicable transformation with no one watching (it is probably quite messy in there) and then the cocoon comes off and everyone says oooo, ahhh, beautiful. It did not happen like that for me.
Frogs are born teeny-weeny, fish-like, slimy, back-water-dwellers. They are not on display at Sea World. They might be in some ritzy hotel’s swimming pool if the place has been abandoned for 20 years and there’s only a foot of green water in the deep end.
But little by little, because they are holy frogs by predestination and by spiritual DNA (new birth), they swim around in the green water and start to look more and more like frogs.
First, little feet come out on their side. Weird. At this stage nobody asks them to give a testimony at an Athletes in Action banquet.
Then a couple more legs. Then a humped back. The fish in the pond have already pulled back: “Hmmm,” they say, “this does not look like one of us any more.” A half-developed frog fits nowhere.
But God is good. He has his plan and it is not to make this metamorphosis easy. Just certain. There are a thousand lessons to be learned in the process. Nothing is wasted. Life is not on hold waiting for the great coming-out. That’s what larvae do in the cocoon. But frogs are public all the way though the foolishness of change.
(The rest is really good, too…)
What parent of a teenager does not wonder and worry about this? I have been encouraged in the past few days by some comments my 15 year-old son has made. Like the tadpoles on our porch right now, the slow but definite process is happening, and it is fascinating to watch.