Last night I got to meet with a small group of students from a youth group that I spoke about Love146 with several months ago. These are teens whose hearts have been pricked by the desire to act in behalf of other people. How can you not love that? It's interesting because my story began in SE Asia but as they say, "All roads lead home." I realized last night how much my story is evolving. While a part of my heart and desire to see justice lies in SE Asia, now it's about girls and guys right here. Sometimes you have to travel far away from your own comfort zone to see the big picture so you realize what's happening in our own backyard.
Our churches, our schools, our communities.
The kids that I talked with last night wanted to live bold stories. They want to learn and they want to tell others. They already understand that there's so much more to a person than if they dress provocatively or act out. They shared their own stories of friends or people at school whose actions reflect the mess going on inside their hearts. Kids who only knew stories of pain and exploitation.
I wonder if part of the problem with our culture is that we're not familiar with enough really good stories? Think of all the Disney stars that have gone down destructive paths. What if we could just begin to teach our kids better stories? Would it effect the choices they make?
Miley Cyrus grew up in an environment that told her that being famous was the end all. It was important that people talk about her. As a young girl the way to do that was by being a Bible-quoting role model. While that story may look good, it's important to note what drives it. It's a story that sells- to tweens and to their parents. It revolved around the empire of Miley, which is a dangerous place for anyone, especially a teenager. When she grew up and learned the way to be the "it" girl in the over-18 economy is using her body, than that's what she did because that's how she was taught. Use whatever means necessary to make the most people talk about you, generating the most amount of cash. She was the "it" girl as Hannah Montana and she is the "it" girl now because we are the ones who put her there. Unfortunately, she is merely a by-product of a culture that has gone horribly wrong when it comes to selling a product; she is no longer a person, she's an enterprise. It is the dark side of capitalism paired with a sex-obsessed culture. We look at her and we shake our heads and call her a slut but it was our dollars that bought her all along. She is our mirror. We are her wrecking ball.
What if she had been told a better story?
What if she had learned that life was not about becoming famous? What if she was taught to use her voice for something bigger than herself? I can't help but think of the often used C.S. Lewis quote,
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
If there's one thing I know about human beings it's that we all want to be a part of something. It's written in us. We want a role in this grand drama playing out around us, but if the stories we are hearing are weak, we will be weak. And in the upside down world that we live in what is painted as weak and strong are actually quite opposites. The story that Miley Cyrus and so many other girls find themselves a part of says that strength is in doing what we want, when we want, how we want because we do what we want to!
I came across a far better story this morning. It's about a young woman named Malala, the youngest ever nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. You may have heard of her before. At fourteen, she was an advocate for education in her town in Pakistan where the Taliban was shutting down schools and murdering those who opposed them. Malala does not see the world as revolving around her, but she is a voice for young women everywhere. Her father taught her a better story and she believed him. The Taliban shot her in the head because of it, yet she survived and is still telling the story, living the story. Take a minute to check out what she has to say in her own words, particularly taking note of what she said her thoughts were before the incident about how she would respond if the Taliban came after her.
There are deeper, better stories to pass onto our children. Ones that don't revolve around turning a profit, but revealing the image of God embedded in all people. Wendell Berry once said, "There is no sacred and secular. There is only sacred and desecrated." Let's pass on that which is sacred instead of what has been desecrated.
These are the stories I'm hoping to pass on to my children.