”These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7
Today, March 5, marks a significant event in my life. It is as significant as 9/11. As noted in today’s edition of The San Diego Union-Tribune, on March 5, 2001, a teenage boy with a .22-caliber handgun killed two people and wounded 13 others at Santana High School in Santee, California. Three miles from my home. I still remember seeing media from across the nation lining Magnolia Avenue along a mile stretch of the road. I remember roses, mountains of purple and gold balloons, and other items that adorned the school’s front lawn marking a tragic day in our nation’s history. I remember hearing my friends say, “Did you know so-and-so was there that day and shot at? It was so scary! He was on the campus at…” Many people I know were there that day and will never forget what happened. The Columbine High School shooting happened in 1999, just a year after I graduated from high school. The Granite Hills High School shooting happened 16 days after the Santana shooting, also in the East County suburbs where I grew up. It seemed a rash of school shootings across the country made the headlines after that time and drew attention to school violence.
I sit here for a minute to reflect on how this event changed me. I followed all the school shootings that happened thereafter and every time the killer was profiled, it was usually a teenager who had a difficult family life and failed to find acceptance among peers. Sometimes I wonder if circumstances would have been different if someone had just reached out to these troubled teens and shown them the love of Jesus. I had the privilege of hearing the father of Rachel Joy Scott, a 17-year-old victim of the Columbine shooting, give his daughter’s testimony at a couple of different events. It was one of the most amazing stories I have ever heard! I read “She Said Yes” a memoir written by Columbine shooting victim Cassie Bernall’s mother. I am grateful that Jesus’ name was lifted up high. I am sure Rachel and Cassie and everyone else who stood up as martyrs for Jesus Christ will be recognized in heaven for bringing honor and glory to our Lord and Savior. “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people” Genesis 50:20. I have always wondered if I would have been bold enough to make such a sacrifice, faced with certain death for proclaiming my faith in Jesus. I hope I would have said yes too!
I was 17 years old when I truly began having a relationship with Jesus Christ. I went from a lonely and depressed teenager who used to “wallow in the mud” to a child of God filled with joy, contentment and peace in my life. I felt loved and accepted by Jesus, and it was the best feeling ever for a teenager who never quite fit into high school just right! After that time, I began to teach Sunday school, and did so for 10 years before the Lord moved my husband and I to Boise, Idaho. I’m 30 years old now, and I still remember the dramatic transformation in my heart and in my life when Jesus came in and made me a new person. Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like today had I chose not to cry out in the shower through tears one day in high school, “Lord help me.” This moment defines me more than 9/11, a local school shooting, getting married, or any other time in my life.
The youth of our nation are future leaders of America. I believe with all of my heart that Christians should always make an effort to reach out and have an impact on the next generation. There were two scriptures I used to carry with me through college:
- I Timothy 4:12 “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.“
- II Timothy 2:22 “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.“
Young people need Godly role models to lead them to Jesus and to show them how to live for Him. Titus 2:6-8 says, “Likewise exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.” Teenage years are hard on everyone who has lived through them. Perhaps maybe even some of those reading this blog have teenage siblings, friends, relatives, children and grandchildren right now. They need to see the light of Jesus shining through you. They need to know that when they feel like their peers have rejected them and the whole world is crashing down, Jesus will always be there. He says in Hebrews 13:5 that He will never leave us nor forsake us! Praise Jesus that He loves us, faults and all, and accepts us just as we are no matter what! Do you believe this? Then tell the teenagers in your life! They need to hear that God loves them over and over again as they are constantly bombarded with feelings, emotions, peers and media that betray their self worth.
Satan is the prince of this world (John 12:31, 14:30) and he would like nothing more than to destroy the lives of our young people. I Peter 5:8 says that he roams the earth as a “roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” I believe the killers in these school shootings all fell prey to Satan’s wily schemes (1 Peter 5:8). There are many teenagers walking around as victims of the devil. They are bonded and enslaved to their sin. Jesus Christ can set them free and ensure they have a wonderful future ahead of them. But now having been set free from sin, and having becomes slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life” Romans 6:22. Let us be vigilant as we care for our young people and ensure they have the eternal hope that we have in common as a body of believers in Jesus Christ!
Pray this prayer with me: “Jesus, I thank You that You saved me from the pit of hell and sting of death. I am grateful that you have set me free from the bondage of sin and have given me hope and peace and life eternal. Please help me to be a living example for You. May Your name be glorified in all that I say and do. Show me how I can have an impact on the youth You have placed in my life. Give me boldness to share my testimony and help me to share Your love. I pray they will know their lives have value and meaning and that they can be a positive force for change and good in this darkened world. AMEN.”