Body piercings. Tattoos. Spiked hair. Exposed midriffs. Black clothes.
Grunge rock. Many teenagers these days are much different from when I
grew up in the 1960s. Back then long hair, bell-bottoms, Birkenstocks and
the Beatles were the trademarks of America’s youth.
But one thing has remained constant. Many young adults still think
long and deeply about spiritual truth and ponder the reality of God.
There’s a yearning to know if God is real and a desire for true spiritual
experience. As a pastor I’ve talked with hundreds of these kids over the
years, encouraging them in this quest.
A recently released University of Pennsylvania study of 2,000
teenagers showed faith, and the worship of God, high on the list of
priorities among those polled. In fact 84% said faith was very important
in their lives and almost half had attended at least three worship
services in the previous month. Even I was a little surprised at that
high a percentage. Sept. 11 undoubtedly had a profound effect on kids as
they realized how truly fragile life can be.
Alana Brazelton is a cute 17-year-old junior at Laguna Beach High
School. She is good friends with Ali Phelps, Diana Dick and Alex
Anderson, three other juniors who work for me each summer at the Sawdust
Festival. Alana also takes guitar lessons from my son, Micah, a 1998
Laguna High grad. Alana is unashamed to let you know how important the
Lord is to her.
“I believed in God when I was young, but at a Forest Home summer camp
prior to my freshman year, I fully committed my life to Christ,” she
Alana attends the Christian Club at the high school, which has regular
guest speakers. She especially enjoys Steve Sweet, youth pastor at the
Presbyterian Church in town and Jeff Tacklind, who holds the same
position at the EV Free Church on Legion Street.
“Steve is like an older brother to me and makes Christianity fun,”
Alana said. “Jeff is a deep person, someone who likes to dig into the
Bible and then analyze it.”
Like the youth of today, my friends and I searched for God in those
days of the counter culture. Some even took psychedelics, expanding their
mind in the hope of reaching deep into the subconscious and discovering
“the god within.” For me, swayed by the Hindu influence of the Beatles, I
studied Eastern mysticism, settling on Self Realization and the teachings
of Paramahansa Yogananda. I used to drive down to the Self Realization
ashram in Encinitas to attend services.
One day I was invited to a quaint little church full of long hairs
like myself, and I listened to the claims of Christ. My heart leaped when
I heard how much God loved me. A powerful demonstration of that love was
revealed on the cross. There Jesus died for everything I had ever done
wrong and by trusting in him I would be forgiven. I was stunned for I had
always considered Christianity kind of a nerdy religion, very much
uncool. God, however, broke through my prejudices.
While appreciating the part Eastern mysticism played in my own
personal spiritual journey, I settled firmly on Christ and have followed
him ever since. I’ve not been disappointed in more than 30 years, not
even for a second.
I am thrilled that so many teenagers possess a heart for the Lord
* JAY GRANT is a pastor-teacher and 32 year resident of Laguna Beach.
He can be reached at P.O. Box 391, Laguna Beach CA 92652 or by e-mail at
o7 firstname.lastname@example.org .