As a pastor of students, and father of five small children, I am deeply troubled by the statistics describing the sexual practices of today’s young people.
Sometimes I wish I had the ability to sit down with students and allow them to look 5 years, 10 years, or maybe even 15 years into the future — so they could see how their present actions will have a direct impact on their future.
I honestly believe that if more students knew how their choices today would impact their lives in the years to come, they’d make changes.
At least I hope they would.
I wish I could introduce them to their future selves — and the painful reality of how their careless choices in the present served to shape a pathway into a less than optimal future.
I’d want them to see how the baggage of their past was collected over time — and subsequently carried into their marriage relationship. Or maybe how it kept them from this kind of relationship all together.
I’d want them to know that yes, there is forgiveness, but that doesn’t undo the memories of the things that they’ve seen, the things that they’ve experienced.
I’d want them to see how issues relating to trust, unmet expectations, perseverance in times of trouble, and even knowing how to communicate — could all be traced back to their current sexual practices.
But unfortunately I don’t have the ability to look into the future — at least not in ways that could forecast (with absolute certainty) how a student’s present actions will directly impact their future.
So, many students will continue on in their current relational models — making impulsive decisions in order to satisfy their immediate physical, emotional, or sexual needs. They will satisfy (what feels like) an unbearable urge — with little to no regard for any potential future consequence.
They will justify their actions by pointing to their raging hormones, or a cultural acceptance of sexual exploration and sexual promiscuity, or that fact that it’s their life and their body and their decision — and therefore not mine (or anyone else’s) to worry about.
Yes, a growing percentage of students are diving headlong into a hook up culture, or other sexually addictive behaviors, and it’s forever changing them.
Today’s student has unparalleled access to pornography and other sexually explicit materials and — unbeknownst to them — it is impeding their ability to have face-to-face human relationships. (No, I don’t consider hooking up a face-to-face relationship). It’s warping their mind and relational reality such that they are actively participating in the demise of their chances to participate in a healthy, long-term, filling relationship in the future.
I can only imagine what it all means for the future of our culture, our society, and the kids that might be born into it as result of the careless sexual practices of today’s students.
Having grown up in a culture of instant gratification, our students desperately need to be taught about the benefits of delayed gratification — and how the patient preparation, consistent self-control, and overall willingness to swim opposite the cultural current on campus can lead to multiplied and magnified blessing — later on in life.
It’s hard to predict all of the ways in which today’s hook up culture and relative acceptance of pornography will negatively affect our students in the future, but I believe we are positioned and called to take action — to challenge their current ways of thinking and living.
Here are three practical steps that we can begin to implement NOW:
We need to educate ourselves. We need to know how to talk with students about the things that they’re facing. We need to be avid readers of books and blogs that serve to further shape our understanding of what’s taking place. And if at all possible, we need to get our hands on any statistical analysis of our students and their sexual practices that our schools might have. We need to know what they’re saying and thinking and doing.
We need to show our students that there’s a better way. We need to allow them to view our relationships — imperfect as they are — and hear about how they’ve grown over time into what they are today. We need to convince them that there’s a reason to wait — and not just because sex outside of marriage is “bad,” but because there are ramifications for doing so that have to do with their quality of life — both in the immediate and in the long-term.
We need to become more proactive, and less reactive. We need to find ways to get out in front of this, as best we can, because this is a problem that won’t fix itself. Our students need us to take the lead in this. We need to stop waiting for them to hit rock-bottom and be willing to initiate hard conversations, we need to be willing to talk about it in a multitude of settings and teach about it consistently.
There are no guarantees in life, but I fully believe that there are things that our students can do — decisions they can make in the present — that will have a direct impact on their future. Our work is to come alongside them in ways that are honest and life-giving — sharing truth in love. We commit to journeying with students — as long as is necessary. And then we leave to God the transformation that only God can do.
All is not lost. God is bigger! But the broken relational paradigm that many (if not most) of our students are living out will NOT fix itself.
This is our call to action.
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