‘You can’t! But why not! Cause I told you not to’, these words have resounded across so many homes over the years. They normally end with the parent having run out of good excuses and just reverting to a position pf power. The parent, the person in power who knows what is right, and the child or young person who is seeking to push the limits of their parents patience and understanding. Who would be a parent?? (says he who is of three young adults!) My children would say who would be a teenager, with parents like that!
When it comes to it, the Church has so often used this approach, to anything that remotely sits outside its area of acceptability. I have for 25 years been a minister, an officer in The Salvation Army primarily working in youth work, and supporting young people with various physical, emotional and educational challenges. Its been fair to say in the past, I've been told to 'watch out for any young person who drinks, smokes or worse ‘does drugs’. This is a massive generalisation, and unfair on so many levels, however sadly this has been the experience for some. I must confess that invariably this kind of stance forces young people to do one of two things in my experience. They either understand and accept their parents position or they seemingly rebel against this point of view and ‘experiment’, almost because they had been told not to.
For far too long the Church has said you cant, when in fact we should have approached such challenging subjects with much more grace, love and mercy.
I have seen in my many years of youthwork, drink and drugs destroy good and beautiful young people. I have seen them, broken before my eyes as the perils of such abuse take a huge toll on the bodies. I had my nose headbutted one night at youth club, by a normally friendly young man, because he was so drunk he didn't know what he was doing. I have seen a young girl get caught in uncompromising positions because she was to drunk to say no. I have seen straight A students fall out of school because they got hooked on drugs, and then had to steal to feed their habit and gradually descend into a cruel spiral with life fading before them. I do not, indeed did not, judge any of the people in these three stories. They are stories that are often repeated time and time again.
As a Salvation Army soldier, who was a bricklayer and also a rugby player, I have made a covenant with God to abstain ‘from all substances that enslave the body’. I'm not a kill joy, I have sat with building and rugby mates who like a drink. BUT I choose not to. I believe it's possible to live life to the full without needing ‘highs’ from substances. I don’t like what I see such substances are doing to what are normally well educated caring people. I see the fall out from such actions in our social hostels, in our homelessness issues and within society full stop. I want to say there is a different way. I believe there is.
It's important to know that whenever Jesus uttered words of instruction, he wasn't saying YOU CANT DO THAT, he was saying if you chose to live that way then there will be consequences. Because Jesus words were not of judgement, but instead full of grace.
So I don’t want to say YOU CANT DRINK OR DO DRUGS, I want to ecnourage you to hear some experience and wisdom, and please think about what your choices might do to your body, mind and soul. There is a different way to live life to the full. It's called the gospel of Jesus.