Turn and Face the Strange: Navigating Change With Our Teenagers

The first time we ventured out to fish that summer, we drove right past our favorite spot on Warm Springs Creek. The landscape was almost unrecognizable; we had to turn around and go back. Record snowfall had generated record snowmelt, re-carving the riverbeds in the process. We stood silently on the bank, wondering if we should we even try to fish here again. It looked so different.

One son looked at the other and said, “Well, if they don’t bite here we can always move further north.” His brother said, “Sure, we can try.” They gathered their vests, flies, and poles and tentatively headed into the streams, searching the water for silver fins flashing in the sunlight.

Two hours later, they had caught more fish than they had ever caught in that spot before.

There is something about change that can make even the most adventurous soul uneasy. Impending change makes me worry, fret, deny, avoid, whatever it takes to cling to the familiar. Somehow I can’t seem to wrap my mind around the fact that new is often good, frequently necessary, and possibly better than what came before. I am ever suspicious of the new, even if I have outgrown the old. And if there is one thing that is consistently true for parents raising kids, it’s that things are always changing.

We were starting to get our summer groove on, and suddenly it’s July. We can’t help but glance at the calendar to see how much summer has already passed, bringing us daily closer to a new school year. New routines, new teachers, new schools, and perhaps even a college dropoff loom a little larger every day.

Two rock-solid truths in Scripture give me the courage to, in the words of David Bowie, “turn and face the strange:”

 “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” (Eccles. 3:1)

Those of us in our middle years (ahem) see the full spectrum of human life like never before. Our parents are aging rapidly before our eyes, and we find ourselves caring for them in the ways they once capably cared for us. We thought riding the bus to school was a huge milestone, but here we are, with our children driving out of the driveway without a backward glance. We will help our kids decorate a first locker, or a first dorm room, or a first apartment, and then we leave and go home without them. All those years we wanted quiet and clean, and now we have it.

These changes are right and good, according to the Preacher in Ecclesiastes. Between the time for birth and the time for death, there is “a time for every purpose.” God doesn’t just place us in an ever-changing world because He gets bored with the status quo, or because He thinks we will.  He isn’t operating some cosmic kaleidoscope, either, just jumbling the pieces of our lives into different patterns to satisfy His creative impulses. God ordains change because He is accomplishing something.

We can trust His purpose completely because of the steady character of our God, “the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17)

Dutch Holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom suggested that the way to manage fear of the future is to know the God who does not change: “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” Our Father is utterly reliable, dependable, and consistent:

 “… God stands unchanging, immutable, anchoring the landscape of human existence as all else around Him ebbs and flows, blossoms and withers, waxes and wanes. The Rock of our salvation endures. The sunshine and shadows of human circumstance may reveal certain contours of His character one day and different ones the next, but His character remains fixed. His plans remain steady. His promises remain firm. In the ever-changing world, He is the unchanging reference point upon which the inner eye fixes to determine the direction that leads to home.”*

He can and will surprise you, but He will never be untrue to His own nature: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Heb. 13:8)

As creatures currently bound to constant change, we, along with our families, are utterly safe in His care. He will not change His mind about us or suddenly realize we aren’t worth the trouble. “For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.” (Mal. 3:6)

With God, the changes our children go through take on purpose and meaning. Jen Wilkin says it this way: “Just as my assurance of salvation rests in the fact that God cannot change, my hope of sanctification rests in the fact that I can.”**

Letting our kids go and trusting them to God’s care is difficult, but it’s essential for them and for us. I would not want my sons to stay four years old, playing Legos on my floor. I desire that they become who they were designed to be, and that involves change. How much more does God want to see us changed in him! When we are in Christ, as we “contemplate the Lord’s glory, [we] are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory” (2 Cor. 3:18 NIV). I love the way the King James says it; we are being changed “from glory to glory.” Knowing that our trustworthy God is transforming us into the image of his perfect sinless Son, we eagerly turn toward the thrill of potential and possibility even as we mourn the loss of what was.

Whatever your child faces in the fall, God will use it for his glory and their good. In the meantime, use the waning weeks of summer to play, to rest, to enjoy the faithfulness of a God who does not change. Transitions can leave us vulnerable to fear, worry, anxiety, and catastrophizing. Concentrating on the immutable character of God will not make a season of change easy, but his steadiness can steady you and your child. He who did not spare his own Son for you and your child will certainly give you both what you need when you need it (Rom. 8:32). His goal for your child is glory; watch and see the work of the Lord.

Anna is a single mom of three young adult sons. She is the Senior Director of Content at Rooted, co-host of the Rooted Parent podcast, a member of Church of the Cross in Birmingham, AL, and the author of the upcoming God's Grace for Every Family: Biblical Encouragement for Single Parent Families and the Churches That Seek to Love Them Well (Zondervan, 2024). She also wrote Fresh Faith: Topical Devotions and Scripture-Based Prayers for College Students. In her free time, Anna enjoys gardening, great books, running, hiking, hammocks, and ice cream. She wants to live by a mountain stream in Idaho someday.

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