Put 43 ninth grade boys in one normal-size classroom. Guess what you get? Chaos. Absolute chaos. No educator would ever recommend it. It’s a sure prescription for disaster. But that’s what we decided to do this week in the freshman Bible class at school.
The topic scheduled this week was sex. I gathered all 43 of them together with three other male teachers. I didn’t lecture. I didn’t preach. I didn’t warn. What I decided to do was to surprise them. And as I did, they became quiet, so quiet in fact that the room settled into a tense stillness. A weighty stillness. A stillness lasted for the next twenty-five minutes. It’s almost like I had hit both the pause and the mute buttons on each of them.
What did I do for those twenty-five minutes? I just told my story.
Every man has a story of sexual brokenness. So I just told a bit of mine during that time when I was their age, both my sexual and relational struggles. All pretty normal stuff. But what was not normal was how they received it. Quietly. Attentively.
We repeated the same thing the next day, only this time with panel of juniors and seniors at the school. As they fielded questions about this same topic, they too told parts of their own story. And again it was the same stillness amongst the 43 freshman.
After one of the large group sessions, I was left with my own small group. And I asked them, “What was it like to hear this?” Here were some of the comments:
- “It’s good to know that I’m not alone.”
- “It took real guts for those upperclassmen to tell us that stuff.”
- “Coach, I can relate to you. You’re not some old person that once traveled in a buggy!” (I loved that comment!)
And then it hit me. The generation gap. The only gap is one that fear creates. Fear of shame, rejection, and failure. Telling our story to a younger generation bridges the gap in a stunning way, in a way that surprises and heals. It’s magic when a 14 year old can relate to me, a 54 year old. It’s beautiful. It’s life.
Besides the story of Jesus, the most powerful story you can tell the next generation is your own.