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Teenager Hardened by Lack of Approval

Scott Larson writes in “A Place for Skeptics”:

I remember being approached by a 16-year-old boy named Ricky after I wrapped up my first speaking session at a weekend retreat for high schoolers. "I just hope you're not heading down a path where at the end of the weekend you're going to ask us to make some kind of commitment to follow God with our whole lives," he said. "'Cause if you are, I want to go home right now."

Without pausing for breath, Ricky continued: "I've been coming here for a long time, and I've made these promises year after year—, promises I can never keep —and ended up worse off than before I started, with God even more mad at me. 'Cause now, not only am I sinning, but I'm breaking another promise I made to him. And so I just want to make sure that's not where you're headed this weekend. Is it?"

Feeling sad for Ricky and not knowing exactly how to respond to him, I took a shot in the dark and asked: "What can you tell me about your dad, Ricky?"

He proceeded to tell me a story from when he was in fifth grade. "Every day when my dad came home from work, the first thing he would always ask me was, 'Have you done your homework yet?' It was a pretty safe bet that I hadn't. Then one day I decided to surprise him. When he got home, I met him at the door saying, 'Guess what, Dad. I did all my homework!' His response was, 'Then why aren't you working on tomorrow's?'"

Suddenly it wasn't so surprising that Ricky felt the way he did about himself and about God. He had learned that no matter how close he came, the mark of approval would always move a few notches higher. He would always come up short.

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