Teenagers as Spiritual Prompts

       A Reflection by Renee Beck

It has always intrigued me that so many adults seem to forget the actual inner experience of their adolescence, instead, wrapping it up in a “Best time of my life!’ or “Worst time of my life!” package. There’s so much that moves & changes in our teens! Besides growing physically & sexually, our brains go through a major growth & learning period, similar to language acquisition when we’re 2-4 years old. But what we’re acquiring as teenagers is the ability to make more intricate, fuller connections – as social (& political) beings, as intimate beings in a variety of relationships, as thinking beings, & as creative & spiritual beings. And as teens, we feel all of this more intensely than at other times in our lives.

It’s a time when we can — &, to at least some extent, must — contemplate the nature of existence.

Why am I here? What is my purpose? Do I even have a purpose? Is there a God? Why is there so much injustice in the world? What is the meaning of life? Does any of this matter?


These are questions central to our lives. As teenagers, we may pose these questions out loud only occasionally to each other, and rarely to adults, but those Big Questions underlie the smaller ones, & most of our growth & actions.

Do you remember when you started asking the Big Questions, when you started to THINK in new ways, to see the larger connections among concepts, to start to question things you had taken as givens?

Do you remember when you stopped asking the Big Questions? The questions may no longer be new, but the Mystery that takes us beyond ourselves lies in posing the questions, not in resting on answers. The questioning still provides that access to Spirit, if we take a moment to allow it.

Teens’ questions (& doubt) can prompt us – or, sometimes, nudge us — to take that moment.

When teenagers seem sullen or dejected, they remind us  to be compassionate & patient with them, and with our own humanity.

When they seem to have no goal or plan, they remind us to seek higher guidance
on our own spiritual path.

When they seem angry with the world, they remind us to be of service.

When they seem distracted, they remind us to pay attention to what’s really important.

When they seem completely engrossed in music, or head-over-heels in love, they remind us to fully give ourselves over to Spirit.

When they seem desperate & afraid, they remind us that life depends not just on light, but on the darkness, as well.

 When we find ourselves thinking, “Oh, just grow up!” teenagers remind us that we’re still growing in our relationship to the Mystery of life, too….

Let teenagers remind you! Do you remember the stimulation and vitality that coursed through your being in the initial search for comprehension? The joy & awe when romantic love first took on its spiritual aspect? The despair and powerlessness in the deep longing for connection? The inspiration & requisite abandon in the act of creating? The realization of relationship with Soul, with Spirit that shook your very foundation?

Remember! Be reminded! Spiritual prompts are everywhere in our lives, and that includes in our relationships with — or views of — teenagers. We just need to be aware of the prompts, & to remember our own inner life, our own search for meaning, our own yearning for spiritual connection & growth. Teenagers can be another guide for us, another gift on our paths….

Presented at the annual Orinda Community Church/Holden High School Sunday service & roundtable, 11 November 2012

This talk was presented with huge thanks and much gratitude to the Orinda Community Church (OCC) for housing Holden High School so graciously, & so generously, for over 40 years.

Holden High School started out as Contra Costa Alternative School, as part of the Free School Movement in 1969, with 1 teacher & a handful of students in a parent’s backyard pool house a few exits up highway 24. In 1970, when we started getting bigger, the OCC was the only place willing to rent to us.

Some organizations & people in our culture have a hard time relating to teenagers, & some have a hard time relating to non-traditional schools, but the OCC has always been committed to service, and without their dedication & love, Holden would not have been able to help so many students recognize just how wonderful they are & how much they have to offer to the world.

If you are interested in exploring your own spiritual growth as a parent, or need help recognizing those prompts, contact Renee for a free initial interview about Transpersonal Therapy, Family Therapy with Heart, or the Parenting Teens as a Path to Self-Growth Workshop series: 510-387-0341.