Hey youth leaders, parents, or anyone who loves a teenager — Abundant Life has an important message for you and them.
We were made for the not yet.
In times like these, those words are truer than ever for me – and I’m sure for you, too. It’s this idea of being here on earth, for a purpose, of course, but knowing that this is really just an in-between time. This isn’t our home – it’s where we are, as we wait for Jesus to come back. It’s where we are as we wait for the earth to be restored. It’s where we are – waiting, in between two gardens.
If you haven’t heard yet, the curriculum Abundant Life: You Were Made for More, which is the backbone of all the things Abundant Life does – blogs, podcasts, etc. – came out with a FIFTH module! It’s probably one of the ones I am most excited about, mostly because I know how deeply these topics touch the lives of teenagers and their families every day. I know how much research and prayer it takes to really understand what God says about them… and I know how many differing opinions there are, even in the Church. I know how sensitive these topics are, and I have first-hand experience navigating them with students that I’ve had the chance to walk alongside of.
The fifth module is titled “We Were Made for the Not Yet.” The three teachings in this module are based on topics that I’ll admit I don’t have all the answers to, and I really don’t know if any single human or denomination ever will. My goal of writing these additional three teachings was not to “be right” or give a “rule book.”; rather, it was about igniting sometimes difficult but important conversations about challenging societal issues.
The idea of being made for the “not yet” is essential to how we live our lives here on earth. We were created by God, perfectly and uniquely – yet, because of sin, we are living in the here and now, which is much more broken than the original and far from perfect. The key is to recognize this that gap exists because of sin… to recognize that our souls will always yearn for the “not yet”, even when we know and love Jesus in the here and now. We will always struggle, and not everybody’s struggle will look the same. But this is the one thing I know for sure: until we’re fully restored, the struggle will continue. It’s inevitable and part of life here on earth that we may never fully understand.
The first teaching hits on the impact of trauma and how trauma’s effects can gravely impact our relationships. The second teaching covers dysphorias of gender, attractions, and identity, in order to open up conversations about how to love those around us, while also promoting a biblical view of sexuality to our students. Finally, the third teaching will speak into why friendship and community are so essential to all of us, especially in light of the struggles mentioned in the first two teachings – trauma and sexual attractions.
Like I said, we don’t have all the answers. But I do believe in the core of my being that these conversations are SO important. The students in our youth ministries and in our homes have real questions about them, because the truth is that they either know someone who is dealing with these struggles or they’re dealing with them personally. Having a Gospel-centered home or youth group to take these questions to is life-changing for how they view God and commune with Him.
*Note: Although we use both the terms “same-sex attracted” and “gay” in these teachings, we encourage you to pray, discern, and seek wisdom from God about what best suits you and your group as you tackle these topics. The issue of language and labels surrounding the gender identity argument is not what we are looking to reconcile in this teaching. Instead, we want to focus on our core identity. Our identity in Christ is first and foremost, so the labels that come after that, the ones that we often pin to our identity in an effort to “belong”, are interchangeable and don’t hold as much weight as many think they do. The labels that God pins to our identity are SO different than the ones we want people to know us by. We even take a look at why humans find labels necessary (for belonging, community, connection, acceptance, etc.) and provide an opportunity for some insightful discussion within your group.
Many times, research has found that when a student is insistent on using a label and questions why you won’t use that label (such as the term “gay”), they are really asking you to affirm their desire for acceptance or love. They want to know that, if they associate with that label, will your treatment of them change? Will you still welcome them? Keep that in mind as you’re walking through these topics.
The more important question we need to be working through is this: would students who are questioning their sexual orientation or struggling with their gender identity feel comfortable raising this issue with our clergy or youth leaders at our church? If not, how can we reframe the narrative and reset the structure so that they do have a safe space to wrestle with hard things in light of the Gospel?
While some argue that using the word “gay” as an identifier will perpetuate the issues we’re facing and reinforce that particular label into the student’s identity, others argue that using terms like “same sex attracted” is refusing to use the common, cultural language involved in this argument and will only further isolate students and distract from the Gospel message that they desperately need to hear.
Again, we don’t have all the right answers – but we know that God does. When I’ve asked Him to help me discern how to write this teaching, He’s helped me see that engaging people is far more important than winning the argument. It’s all about people, and that’s what we need to focus on. It’s about winning back hearts for His Kingdom, and we believe we do that by meeting people where they’re at.
If you’re interested in hearing more about Abundant Life and the fifth module that was released just this year, head to our website and check out the intro video. Or you can email me with questions and set up a time to chat!
Praying for you with love, Sammie
Written by Sammie Gallo, Author of Abundant Life and Ministry Coordinator for Anglicans for Life