And yes, I love dogs. But there’s a deeper reason why this makes me cry. It’s because I love teenagers. Let me explain.
This dog has everything in common with the military teenagers I see every day. For example, when the rescuers first approached the dog, she got angry and defensive, trying to look intimidating, baring her teeth, because she was scared. She didn’t have any reason to trust anyone, because her previous owners had abandoned her. She was sick and dirty and lost and trapped. On top of that, she was blind and didn’t know what was real and what was true. She had to smell the strangers in order to know if they were okay. She was so terrified, and yet as the rescuers started showing her affection by petting it her you can see that her defensive exterior was softening. As they took her home and shaved her flea-infested fur and gently gave her a bath, you could see her slowly coming alive again. The extra efforts of the rescuers in taking her to the vet gave her vision back in one eye, allowing her to see. She could play and jump around and be free again. You could see her wagging her tail, licking those who had rescued her, able to finally trust them.
The more time I spend at this high school, the more conversations I have with teenagers, the more I see on Facebook and Twitter, the more I realize all the brokenness that’s here. I’m hearing about and seeing more physical and verbal fights. These kids are angry, defensive, untrusting, lost, and feeling trapped in some awful situations. At first glance all you see is the anger, all you see is them baring their teeth. Some might be tempted to write them off as just “angry teenagers” but each of them has a story. And if you take the time (sometimes years) to get to know them, you’ll get to hear that story, and you’ll wonder why they haven’t gone completely out of their minds. Seriously, the lives some of them live has been so full of heartache, physical and verbal abuse, deployments, abandonment, loss, and neglect that some of you would be shocked that they’re still functioning.
That’s why when I see them bare their teeth at one another, and sometimes even to me, I give them some grace, because I would do the same if I were them. I wouldn’t trust me. I’d just assume I was another adult trying to hurt them, or another hurt waiting to happen. So the next time you’re tempted to write them off as angry, badmouthed, mean teenagers, get to know them. There’s a reason they’re that way. There’s a reason I believe in listening to their story, because you can break up fights, but fights are only a symptom of the brokenness inside.
Jesus spent His life like this rescue team, finding people huddling in corners, broken and abused and rejected by everyone, and He slowly and lovingly brought them back to life. They didn’t scare him away. He knew they were hurting. That’s how I want to spend my life, too. Bringing these broken kids to the feet of Jesus, one by one, where He will wash their feet, their lives, and their souls.