How to raise a teenager

My wife and I are in the throes of helping our two children navigate their teenage years. It is a daily adventure. This morning, for example, I got both up at 5 am to address a situation with one of them. I gave them the A Few Good Men speech. I channeled my inner football coach toward them for the first time in their lives. It was quite dramatic.

In order to settle down afterwards, I completed my daily reading plan from YouVersion (The Gospels). The assignment included Matthew 25 and, when put together with the high-volume tongue lashing I had just given my children (I built to an arresting crescendo — it’s a gift), I understood the parable of the 10 virgins in a new way.

Here’s the text…

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

Here’s my understanding of what Jesus was teaching. It’s the same point I was attempting to make with my kids. The way in which we live on a daily basis is either filling our jars with oil (when we pursue God) or emptying them (when we choose worldly substitutes to satisfy our deepest needs). If we fill our jars (with Jesus), then we will be prepared when disruptions occur. If our jars are empty, if we’ve lived each day for substitute pleasures, then we will have no reserve and nothing to sustain us when we most need it.

The harsh reality is that we only get to live this life one time. We will either have a full jar of oil, which gives light (Jesus), or an empty one, which leads to darkness. As someone who has made plenty of mistakes, let me encourage you to live your life seeking God. He is the one who loves you and has prepared a place for you in his kingdom. The world does not and cannot make the same promise.

Peace to you my friend!


About Tony Schmitz

Tony Schmitz received his BS in Mechanical Engineering from Temple University in 1993, his MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida in 1996, and his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida in 1999. He is a mechanical engineering professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
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