Have you ever noticed how some teenagers seem so passionately drawn into certain things—friendships, dating relationships, music, lifestyles—to the point that they become obsessions? On the other hand, have you ever known a teen who didn’t seem so susceptible to these forces? On one hand, you have a teen who is “addicted”—who would rather die than lose say a friendship or a CD. On the other, you have a teen who could seemingly take it or leave it—they just have a healthy balance about life. What’s the difference?
Often we rule out this obsessive behavior as something that all teens experience. Perhaps that is true on some level, but the types of clingy, passionate addictions I often see are anything but normal. They are more reflective of a starving refugee scavenging for food in the gutter. Amazing how a starving person will eat just about anything to stay alive, isn’t it? On the other hand, a well-satisfied person at an all-you-can-eat buffet doesn’t have to scavenge for food at all! Hmm. Go with me for a moment—time for a word picture.
Imagine that your child’s heart is like a plastic container submerged underwater. The container represents the heart; the water represents the world and all the corruption that Satan wants to put into the heart. The air in the container represents healthy spiritual things—a strong relationship with parents, the Word of God, godly authorities, etc. Now, since no heart is completely perfect or sealed from the world, let’s poke a few holes in the container in our word picture. What starts to happen? Immediately the air begins to leave the container and escape to the surface, and the water begins to enter.
It’s a simple vacuum effect. The container cannot hold a vacuum! To let the air escape and keep the water out will lead to only one result—the container will collapse.
Now, if our goal was to keep the water out of the container, in spite of the holes, there’s only one solution— keep the air flowing in to abate the water! So, let’s stick a straw into the container and start blowing with all of our might! So long as we’re forcing more air into the container, the water will be withheld. Yet the moment we stop forcing air in, the vacuum effect will create a force of suction for the water! Amazing.
Now, before you think I’m nuts, let’s apply this. Why are young hearts so naturally attracted to bad things—obsessive friendships, godless media, and carnal culture? Many teens are suffering from a vacuum in the heart—spiritually and relationally! The water of the world is being forcefully drawn in where the healthy air is missing. Good air must be supplied intentionally and regularly—I’m talking about quality family time, one on one with parents, good music, good “input.” Where this “air” is escaping or missing altogether, you will always find a desperate teen grasping spiritually and relationally for anything and everything to fill the heart—anything to avoid a collapse!
Satan is only too ready to fill your young person’s heart with the filth of the world. The moment you allow a parental vacuum, you can expect your teen to struggle and to grow progressively worse. He becomes desperate for friendships, music, dating relationships, etc. when his heart is longing to be filled! The strong suction of the world’s filth is only increased by the lack of “fresh air”!
If this is happening in your teen’s heart, you must immediately start refilling that heart with good air while you remove the filthy water. Start immediately overdosing on time together, prayer together, good music in the home, and quality family time. Rebuild that missing closeness that he so craves. At the same time, plug some holes. Look for the areas where you might be allowing “water” into the heart! Maybe you will stop listening to certain music, stop watching certain shows, or follow the Holy Spirit in some other area. In the short term your teen will fight you, trying to avoid a heart collapse. But eventually (and it may take months or years) your “healthy-hearted” teen will return. Fresh air will make a difference in time!
So, watch out for the “vacuum effect” in your family. If your teen is showing signs of spiritual drowning, look no further than the heart. Don’t waste all your time on the fruit problems—go to the root. Focus on the deep needs of the heart, and begin filling that heart with good air. See the longing for what it really is—a longing for fresh air. Your teen needs you more than ever! So go be a breath of fresh air—and by God’s grace, keep breathing!
The Bible reminds us in Proverbs 4:23, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”