By Stephanie Unger
Fifteen years after buying an 11-bedroom rooming house in Winnipeg’s Spence neighbourhood, Stephanie, her husband Travis and their kids, Shadrach and Rachel, embarked on a sabbatical. They left Winnipeg, towing their sailboat Schemma down south, and splashed her into the Gulf of Mexico to sail around Florida, across to the Bahamas and managed to return six months later. For details, check out http://www.ungersail.com. This is the third of a series of four articles.
Long days at sea provide lots of time to read. I really love a good story and have been introduced to the world of young adult dystopian novels. This genre of fiction is filled with amazingly gifted, mature teenagers who, through their courage, sacrifice and prowess, save the world. A similar storyline, popular on the big screen these days, is that of the superhero. Young adults find themselves suddenly endowed with unusual ability and are thrown into an epic life-threatening adventure during which they must choose whether to use their power for good or evil.
The contrast between the thrilling lives of the teens in these stories and the lives of teens in North America is stark. In reality, most teens today are living in a society where their choices seem to have no effect on the world around them. There is huge pressure to perform and succeed but very few compelling results from all this effort. Perhaps that is why many people are seeking adventure in fiction, movies and video games, where they can vicariously feel what it is like to do something amazing.
Statistics tell us that more and more young people are leaving the church in their search for adventure and purpose. Yet, it is Jesus who offers each of us a real-life chance to be heroes. The Spirit of Christ offers us abilities and wisdom beyond our own. He invites us to the dangerous and exciting mission of following him beyond our comfort zones. At times this mission can even be life-threatening, and it is guaranteed to change the world!
What role do we as churches and parents play? Are we encouraging our young people to take risks in learning to follow Jesus, modelling this by stepping out in faith ourselves? Do we challenge our young people to surrender their own plans, dreams and ambitions so God can make them living sacrifices for him? Could we say along with Paul, “When we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true…So you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you. In this way, you imitated both us and the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 1:5–6 NLT)? If young people today think that heroes are fictional, we know where the problem lies.
As dystopian novels and superhero movies teach us, those who make a difference in the world must throw caution to the wind, leave behind the security of the status quo, and be willing to sacrifice their lives for those they love. This is the power available to the church: when we whole-heartedly give ourselves to Jesus, his life-changing, transforming power fills us and spills out of our churches into the whole world.