The world watched, as I did, in awe of 17-year-old, Chloe Kim, catapulting herself into the air rotating her body as high as a four-story building and then landing on hard ice in Women's Half-Pipe competition at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Her competitive talents had qualified her for the Olympics when she was only thirteen years old but because of age restrictions, she had to wait four more years. The commentator said after she won the gold, "she will be taking the ultimate 'bling' to her high school prom this year."
The world watched, as I did, the next day glued again to our screens as hundreds of 17-year-old Stoneman Douglas High School students ran fleeing for their lives in Parkland, Florida. A 19-year-old, who was a previous student of the school, was gunning them down and seventeen young lives would now never attend their high school prom.
And we all prayed and cried as God watched too.
The world of high school students has changed since I attended, and it has even changed since my two daughters who graduated in the early 2000's attended. I knew high school students well then, as my husband and I were Booster Parent Presidents and often chaperones for almost 150 students for our daughter's high school choir program. However, students today are much different because of the latest cultural disruption — the smartphone. This age is one of instant and unrelenting technology that beams terrorism, radical political division, financial and environmental destabilization at us 24/7 in the palm of our hand. We can't escape seeing and knowing. Young minds can't escape bullying or the threat of becoming ostracized as texting and social media overpower their ability to be individuals. So most teens isolate their own thoughts and in a world (one that is escalating in violence) they dare not express themselves until they can't. Then they implode committing suicide or explode using gunfire and taking many with them. What's truly scary is that they've been able to practice using video games.
The world as we know it has not just changed for high school students, it's changed for all of us. In her book, researcher of kids born after 1995, Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D. and author of iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy-Completely Unprepared for Adulthood, said, "Cultural change also has many causes, not just one — it's not just parents, but technology, media, business, and education working together to create an entire culture that is radically different from the one our parents and grandparents experienced. Cultures change, and generations change with them, that's the important point. It's not a contest to see which generation is worse (or better), the culture has changed, and we're all in this together."
The world's alarm clock is ringing but are we as Christians ready to wake up? Futurist, Bob Johansen studies disruptions and forecasts in his book, The New Leadership Literacies: Thriving in a Future of Extreme Disruption and Distributed Everything, that we are rapidly losing hope. "Globally, a large number of young people will be lacking in hope and unable to achieve a sense of meaning in their lives - and they will be very connected through digital media. The trigger for next-generation disruption will be a global boom of young people coming of age during a time that President Lyndon B. Johnson would have referred to as "the outskirts of hope." I'm extremely optimistic about this next generation of young people, if they have hope. Hope is necessary for life. They have never before, however, been so connected while they searched for meaning. And I doubt that hope has ever been so hard to find for young people."
The world is watching. Christians are being called to be "seed planters" of hope. To do that we must be willing to not separate ourselves from the culture but to stand in the midst of the chaos and demonstrate a life of Godly choices and actions.
The world of Chloe Kim must have been explosive as she left the gate to roar down the half-pipe on an Olympic stage with millions of people watching. Her focus and endless hours of training brought her to that pivotal moment. Nothing in our efforts is ever certain until it's proven and seen by the entire world. In my devotional, Hope 4 Today: Stay Connected to God in a Distracted Culture, I wrote about becoming a "Hope Rebel." Paul had this attitude in Romans 12:12: 'Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.' He wanted us to know how to grow our hope and see the future, and that the one and only Hope was coming – Jesus.
The question is, are we as Christians willing to show and prove to the world with our daily choices and actions the power and hope of Christ Jesus?
Kathleen Cooke's new devotional "Hope 4 Today: Stay Connected to God in a Distracted Culture" encourages readers to engage with God. As co-founder of Cooke Pictures (cookepictures.com) and The Influence Lab, she publishes a monthly newsletter (influencelab.com/women). Find out more at kathleencooke.com, or reach her on Twitter @KathleenRCooke