"Lord, have mercy on our souls," I mumbled to myself as my friend Marvie turned the key in the ignition. She was 16, did not have a driver's license and was behind the wheel of my father's car. I was 15, was a nervous wreck on the passenger side and had just pulled off an unlikely scheme to fool my dad into handing over the keys.
Our mission was to make it to a gospel concert at Detroit's Northwest Activity Center. We were determined to fulfill that mission. After all, we both loved good singing, and it wasn't as if we were sneaking off to a Jackson 5 concert. It was a gospel concert, for goodness' sake.
Needless to say, it didn't take long for the whole plan to unravel. Although we made it to the auditorium, we never heard one note of that good singing.
One of my brothers was in the audience and spotted us right away. The questions came fast and furiously. We were totally busted. Within the hour, I was back in my bedroom on Woodingham Street.
When Dad found out that Marvie had showed him a fake ID and that I had lied to him, he didn't say anything; he simply shook his head. The look of disappointment on his face as I told him the entire story made me want to run and hide in shame.
That adolescent prank happened more than 25 years ago. But lessons learned from the experience have stayed with me to this day and are helping me to impact the next generation, including my own two teenagers.
The first lesson I learned is that the heart dispenses its own retribution. My father didn't have to punish me with a whipping or a verbal tirade. I had been raised in a godly, decent home. I had been taught what the Bible said: "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold" (Prov. 22:1).
I knew that I had brought dishonor to my family's good name and (at least for a moment) had lost the favor of my dad. It made me want to cry for days. Guilt from betraying a loved one's trust has its own sting.
The second lesson I learned is one of forgiveness. I had disappointed a wonderful man who had placed his trust in me. Dad could have shunned me or made me walk around in disgrace for weeks, but he didn't. Instead, he chose to be an example of what it means to forgive someone you love.
My parents knew the power of Proverbs 22:6: "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." Growing up with the last name of Winans meant more than growing up in a house full of music. Mom and Dad worked hard to create a home in which love took priority over things. Discipline was second to love. And laughter ran a close third.
Regardless of all the hustle and bustle involved in bringing up seven boys and three girls, my parents consistently pointed their children in the direction of holiness. In a nutshell, this meant honoring your parents, respecting your elders, not talking back and having a fear of God.
Throughout the years, they gave us a firm foundation. As each of us matured and set out on our own journeys, we took with us the truth of God's principles and the assurance of His grace.
Now as I look back on that incident of teenage rebellion in my own life, it seems rather innocent. The current temptations and dangers facing my two teens, Alvin and Ashley, are overwhelming—even scary—at times.
The young generation of today is literally bombarded with negative and disturbing messages from all corners of the culture. Music, movies, television and the Internet seem to invade our families with ungodly and anti-Christian influences.
Instead of talking about the joys of romance, fidelity and commitment, teens are using phrases such as "casual sex," "friends with benefits" and "hooking up."
They enter a sports arena and, instead of finding heroes or role models, they're introduced to athletes who have violent outbursts, use dangerous drugs and live immoral lifestyles.
Even a simple trip to the mall can turn into a moral dilemma. Teenage girls who still believe in modesty and purity receive little help from the marketing and manufacturing professions. Being stylish without being suggestive is difficult these days.
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