School. It’s a word that can make us cringe, especially with summer disappearing as quickly as the Snapchat video that your friend just sent to you. We know that school is quickly approaching for some, already here for others, and, inevitably, homework will soon consume us. Even though we cringe at the thought of having to do homework, school isn’t all bad. The return of high school promises daily hangouts with friends, Friday night football games, and a lot of fun memories to be made. But want to know how to have your best year of senior high school? The answer lies a lot less in what you do and a whole lot more in who you’ll be.
We all know that senior high isn’t as easy as Zac Efron makes it appear to be in High School Musical. (Yes, the Zac Efron from The Greatest Showman was once a fledgling actor in an incredibly cheesy movie all about the struggles of high school!) Teen Zac had challenges as he made his way through the year. The biggest challenge he faced was the decision of whether to play basketball or act in the school musical with the girl that he liked. This might seem like an easy decision for you, but this was not an easy decision for Zac. He wasn’t just faced with picking an activity; Zac had to choose his identity.
Have you ever felt like that? Torn between not just two activities, but two identities? Maybe you don’t like the way people might treat you if you do something you love that might not be too popular. Maybe your family wants you to be one person, but your friends expect another. Maybe you can’t choose, so you try to do it all. You try to be everything everyone wants you to be. (I don’t want to give any spoilers in case you still haven’t seen the iconic HSM, but our boy Zac thought he could be both the basketball jock and the theater star. Eh, it got rough. He desperately wanted to be two different people, but how do you think that worked out for him?)
Most of us relate to that kind of FOMO (parents, that means Fear Of Missing Out). It’s something that seems to be hardwired into us. We want to hang out with all the cool people, be sports legends, get the lead role in the school play, and the list goes on. Soon, we find ourselves so immersed in our activities, we only focus on what we’re doing. Meanwhile, we forget to focus on who we’re becoming.
Thankfully, God provides us with a simple, yet powerful identity to help us in our everyday lives. We are His children! Okay, maybe that feels overused, but it’s true—and it’s powerful. As God’s children, we don’t need to focus on what society tells us we should look like, act like, or be like. That focus leads to more questions than answers. It’s a target that never holds still. It leads us into confusion and darkness. And that’s not from God. He’s the author of our identities. He’s our light. As His children, we walk in light.
By now, you might be thinking that I’m crazy. Maybe you’re worried that people are going to judge you for not doing the things everyone else is doing because you want to honor God with your life. Maybe you’re worried your friends won’t hang out with you anymore if you don’t go to some of the parties. I get it. I’ve been there. In senior high, I wanted to be popular (and I actually was). I was one of the captains on the football team. I was the president of my class for three years. I got good grades and so on. However, I always felt the pressure to do all the things my friends were doing. I know what it’s like to want to maintain your “cool” status at school. Sometimes, it felt like I had no other option than to give in to the rebellious things they wanted to do, especially when it came to alcohol. I knew it wasn’t a good decision, but it seemed like the right decision at the time. I stopped allowing myself to be me and started forcing myself to be someone I thought they would like.
Fortunately, I changed in college. Why? I found an amazing group of friends who preferred to follow Jesus rather than to attend drunken parties. My new tribe helped me live my true identity. I am a child of God. I walk in light, and I live my life as a shining story to tell the world. My community helped me live without feeling constantly conflicted. Unfortunately, many people don’t have a tribe, or a support system. Your tribe is a group of true friends who will pick you up when you fall, rein you in when you’re getting out of bounds, and challenge you to run with them toward Jesus.
If you’re caught up in partying or other harmful things, it’s time for you to find people who will help you embrace your truest identity as a child of God. If you’re walking in light and letting your life tell a story of hope, then it’s time to ask yourself who might need your help to find their place as a child of God—a seeker of His light. Imagine going through this year knowing who you are and whose you are, with a tribe who’s got your back. Doesn’t that sound like the start of your best year of senior high school ever?