Terrified of Teens No More

I’ve mentioned how God delivered me from fear, starting with the bigger things, and now working on the smaller things that are just as hindering and tenacious. If you know what it’s like to live with fear, you might wonder: Can God really set us free? Oh, yes! I can attest to that, and so can people who have known me the past six years and seen the changes. I have many examples I could share of how God has delivered me from fear, and I might share some of these as He brings them to mind. For now, I’ll share one He’s been reminding me of lately.

I used to be terrified of teenagers. Can you imagine? I have since come to know so many teenagers and each one of them is amazing and wonderful and yes, very sweet at heart, even on their worst days. In fact, every one of the teenagers I know has become my favorite person! I will drop everything and run across the room if I see one of them.

But go back six years and I was terrified. Especially when several of them were together. If I saw a group of teens walking in my direction, I’d cross to the other side of the street out of fear. If I was one-on-one with a teen, I couldn’t look them in the eye and didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing. Today you can’t stop me from talking to them!

Then I asked God to deliver me of all fear. The first area He went to work on was my fear of teens. It wasn’t subtle. He said, “I’m calling you to work with teens in ministry.” Are you kidding?

But as I said in my previous post, He showed up in the process. The first thing He did was bring me to a church where I was visiting for a month and by the end of the service, every teen had sought me out and surrounded me and started sharing their hearts with me. They didn’t even know me! God really had my attention then.

After I returned home, I shared with some folks that I felt called to work with teens. Within a few weeks, I was teaching the middle school Sunday school class at the church and accepted a job offer at Eagle Ranch, a group home for at-risk teens in north Georgia. And loving every minute!

How did this happen? It was God’s intervention, of course. But more specifically … for years I had walked in terror of teens, a fear that stemmed from my own teenage years, where all my childhood fears that “people will hurt me” clashed with the chaos and awkwardness of high school. That fear had settled in my heart and created an expectation. My expectation that teens were scary was something my spirit broadcast every time I saw a teenager. Consequently, no teenager was going to talk to me, either, because I was like a spiritual porcupine, saying, “Don’t come near me, don’t come near me!”

Yes. It really does work that way. The Bible says so. Matthew 7:2 says, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” If I believe in my heart that teens will hurt me, and I walk around carrying that judgment … there won’t be any teenagers giving me warm fuzzies.

So I repented for my judgments of how I expected teens to hurt me. I forgave those who had hurt me when I was a teenager. I forgave the adults in my childhood years who instilled in me a fear of people hurting me. And I repented for believing the lie that people, especially teens, would hurt me. I repented for carrying around that fear all those years. I laid all of this at the Cross, and Jesus was able to step in and stop the reaping of those judgments I had sown.

Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” I had sown judgments against teens and I was reaping the consequences by driving teens away from me and not allowing them to show me who they really are, how wonderful, how loving. But when I recognized my sin, confessed and repented and nailed it to the Cross, Jesus was able to step in and stop the reaping. It’s done. It’s powerful. And I was delivered of my judgments and my fear.

Then God orchestrated the circumstance in that church service where every teen sought me out, as if noticing me for the first time. My spiritual porcupine quills were gone. My judgments were gone. My heart had changed, and they knew it. They didn’t know me, personally, but on a spiritual level, they knew I was now safe to talk to, and that I wanted to talk to them and spend time with them and just be in their presence.

God is that powerful.

And He doesn’t just stop at good enough. He proceeded to take the next two years of my time at Eagle Ranch to walk me through every scary situation I had encountered in high school, and to redeem all of it. In the process, I not only was freed of so many little fears – and big ones – but I also had the privilege of getting to know and love 100 or more teenagers, each one of whom inspired me, changed my life for the better, impacted me in powerful ways, drew me closer to God (yes, folks, these are at-risk teens I’m talking about!), and each one of whom I will never forget and am proud to call “friend.”

That’s just one of the many fears He has freed me from over the past six years, and in its place, poured more of His power, love and sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7) than I can fathom. And today, as I grapple with these smaller fears that God is walking me free of, this is one of the changes He reminds me of. He says, “Janet, do you remember how you reacted to teenagers six years ago? How has this changed for you? What did I accomplish in your heart and in your life? So Janet … why are you afraid now of this little thing [fill in the blank with whatever fear we are dealing with today] that stands between you and Me?”