So many of the choices that kids make surrounding sex and relationships are motivated by the very real longings they experience. Sex and relationships can be false fuels that may seem to satisfy deeper longings. If our kids learn to notice the most real longings and bring them to Jesus to be satisfied by the One who Truly Satisfies, they will be free to make different choices regarding sex and relationships. These are the choices that will lead to a life that flourishes. Let’s briefly unpack this idea of false fuels and real longings, as well as consider some practical approaches to sharing God’s Love with the kids in our lives.
“God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other.” C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Confession – I know I was made to run on God’s Love, but much of the time I believe that I can or should run on something else. I frequently try to fuel my body-self with what I think I urgently long for in the moment: TV, candy, food, coffee - and “relaxing” with said TV, candy, food, or coffee. Each of these things in and of themselves is not bad, and sometimes they really are gifts from God! Yet, even good gifts can unintentionally be grasped as fuel that we must have to be happy. We can turn them into false fuels if we forget that we were designed to run on God Himself. False fuel is not what I truly long for, and it can never actually satisfy. At any given moment, a false fuel is just what I mistakenly believe (so strongly sometimes!) will satisfy the true ache of longing.
In the examples I’ve disclosed, the real ache that only God can satisfy might be that I am longing to feel taken care of or to be comforted. Life can at times appear to dictate that if I am longing to be comforted then I need to provide the comfort for myself. So even something as good as food, rest, or great entertainment can be the thing that I grasp for or demand when I incorrectly think that experience itself is what sustains me. I’m choosing not to, or have forgotten to seek to run on God Himself. False fuel often sounds like: “If I can just get enough rest, I’ll be able to flourish.” A false fuel can be anything (a behavior, belonging, experience, or person) good, harmful or even neutral that we believe will be able to fuel us in living our best life.
Yet, anything other than God and His Love is unsustainable as fuel. It won’t work in the long run, and can actually be destructive. Our family is about to embark on our first road trip to Utah. Road trip!! We can, and will, bring along all kinds of items and goodies to enhance the experience. However, we will never get to Utah and could need repairs on our car if we attempt to get to our destination on anything other than gasoline. Likewise, there are countless good things that contribute to or even result from a flourishing life, but these are not the things on which we were designed to run. We really, truly can only run on God’s Love. The kids we love can only run on God’s Love.
On what false fuels do the kids in your life attempt to run? Maybe you’ve heard something similar to:
“If I had (fill in the blank with the toy or tech of the moment), I’d be happy forever.”
“If I could be in that friend group, everything would be better.”
“I can’t really be happy unless I have a boyfriend/girlfriend.”
“I have to get accepted to this college for my life to work out.”
“Of course I’m having sex, my life wouldn’t be normal and healthy if I wasn’t.”
These, and statements like these, are golden teachable moments. We can help our kids to recognize what they are really asking for and then coach them to direct their aches and longings to God for the kind of satisfaction only His Love provides.
We can help our kids learn to:
1. Recognize the longing.
Example: “When you picture life as being perfect with a boyfriend, what are you imagining life would be like? What longings do you have that it seems like a boyfriend could fulfill?”
2. Choose not to grasp at people or things to satisfy a longing.
Example: “Wow, that sounds like something you want so badly. I’m so glad that we’ve already talked about never using someone else to get what we want. You always have a choice in how you treat others and I’m so glad that you work hard to not use other people, even to get a boyfriend.”
3. Direct longings to God for satisfaction.
Example: “Have you tried describing to God how you feel? He loves you so much. You can be honest and then ask Him in what ways He wants to come through for you in this area that you are longing for. He really can satisfy and comfort you in this way.”
4. Use the Satisfaction of All My Desires tool in our Downloadable Conversations as a reminder that God’s Love really does satisfy our deepest longings.
Start today and develop a family culture that lovingly and supportively calls out attempts to put anything other than God’s Love in our gas tank. Share age-appropriate examples with your kids of how God’s Love satisfies you even in really difficult times.
We’re in this with you, and we are aware of our need to practice this in our lives too. If you get stuck, or need clarification feel free to contact us. We love to hear from you!