I listen to Broadway musicals while I mow the lawn and that means I cry while I mow my lawn. Big, sloppy tears as emotion and music coalesce to make some philosophical point that changes a part of my heart.
I'll bet you're not that cool. I bet you just done a hat and some glasses and think about why your neighbors don't use a better brand of weed-be-g0ne to stop that dandelion forest. The answer to that question will always remain unanswered...at least until someone makes a Broadway musical about it.
At my teenage and Millenial students' insistence, today I dove into the world of Dear Evan Hansen. I've heard snippets and been unimpressed but that always happens with musicals until you hear the entire thing in order.
By the third song, I was this crazy guy:
And then I got mad. I'll tell you why and I'm going to talk about religion in doing so. I won't apologize to my neighbors for crying while I mow, so don't expect me to apologize for speaking about my religion on my own blog.
I've only talked to one "grown up" about Dear Evan Hansen. Her remark was "It just has so much language I can't tolerate. I told [my daughter to listen to it in her room."
Oh, parents. Foolish, ridiculous, STUPID parents. When your child hands you their heart on a platter, don't care more about the package than the contents.
The message in Dear Evan Hansen is something you must hear, especially if you're trying to raise Christian children in a toxic world. Dear Evan Hansen isn't Christian in any way - instead, it's a rather impressive display of what we've offered our children in lieu of the Atonement.
The children of Dear Evan Hansen scream to be seen, to be important - to be loved for who they are without restriction. In short, they long for someone to say this to them:
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth,nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39
Instead, they have a world where likes and followers determine their self-worth, where pain is assuaged with drugs, and where sex and Netflix are equally good activities when getting to know a new friend. They make friends based on ever-smaller slices of the pie where acceptable people use only certain types of words or have a specific set of political beliefs or avoid the same locations. They are adrift because we've let them go out to sea without the oar. They consume the pornography we create as adults and then get punished when they struggle in relationships and don't understand why banging a stranger gets called rape.
Christian parents, you need to do better. You've let behavior overwhelm the message of Christ and your children are getting lost. Maybe adults tend to leave the gospel to reduce their own guilt, but children leave because they can't reconcile hypocrisy and have no relationship with Christ.
But they are begging for a relationship with Christ. They simply haven't met him. Our "Christian" obsession with commandments and rules - the things intended to help us clear our spirits to make way for the Christ - have replaced the actual compassion, love, and connection Christ offers.
And we don't seem to trust Christ to teach our children in his own time, even though he clearly said He's capable of doing so.
"For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:" (Isaiah (28:10)
When we put the behavior or the words ahead of the message, our children hear only judgment. We need to stop caring more about "eff words" and less about their hearts. Because a child who has a relationship with Christ won't abandon Him for likes, followers, and slimy men who promise quick paychecks for a few naked photos.
Sadly, none of us can guarantee an outcome for our children. Each of you is raising the peers who will influence my children. Many of us will watch our children become disillusioned and walk away. Some of us will deal with drug addiction and sexual misuse and a few very unlucky ones will cope with a child's suicide. I could end up anywhere on that list. My children are as vulnerable as yours.
But, as Christian parents, let's promise each other that we will try harder to teach Christ. Let's ignore the swear words and listen to the message. And let's teach our children that Christ thinks they are important, lovable and that He will remember them, even if they never get a single like on a profile pic.
"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered..." (Matthew 10:29-30)
Adults aren't immune to this, either. I've needed Christ a lot over the past few days. I recently found out I'll probably never be published. What I write is too edgy and LDS publishers still focus on the words over the message. My heart hurts because I write the things of Christ and the way I see Him work in the hearts of the youth I love so dearly. He's alive and He's working miracles - but the focus on words and deeds "your grandmother would be comfortable reading" continues to shut them out of a market that doesn't represent the world they live in.
I've been heartbroken. I went to a self-publishing seminar to try and be my plucky, never-beaten self. Instead, the instructor repeated this gem over and over:
"Your book will only ever be as popular as you are."
So, color me dead. Draw the chalk outline. Popularity has never been my thing. I'm too much of some things and too little of others to dominate Twitter.
In the midst of a teary prayer, I remembered this scripture.
"Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward." (Matthew 6:2)
I had the distinct feeling that whoever needed to read my missionary novel has already read it. That person may have been me. There was a lot of healing that happened in those words. It's not what I wanted for this journey, but in a world where popularity dictates worthiness, I'm unlikely to succeed.
Yet Christ is with me. I pleased Christ. And that felt...amazing. It's a pretty cool reward.
Oh, how I wish I could write that to Evan Hansen and every other child following #dearevanhansen. You aren't alone. You have a Savior. He doesn't care if the cheerleaders shout for you or anyone follows your Snapchat. He loves you exactly as you are and will help you choose which behaviors are right for you. Eventually, if you are connected to Him, you'll feel like commandments aren't the burden they seemed to be when Christianity was just a reason for your parents to criticize you.
I'm sorry the Christians of the world have done such a poor job hearing you beg for that message. I promise to do better.
So, I'm going to stop blogging and watch HobbyKidsTV with my children and pray I can remember those spawn are part of my children's hearts. If I pay close enough attention, maybe I can find a moment to tell them that Christ can make them just as happy as Hobby Pig.