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7th Grade: You Are Designed to be Whole

 

Blueprint Big Idea

Life, Love and Legacy. These three powerful words help young teens to remember that God gave them life, created them to love, and their behavior and choices will leave a legacy. The question is, what kind of legacy will they leave? It depends on their behavior and choices which is why this is a prime age for your son or daughter to learn the term sexual integrity, living in agreement with their male and female design in all five aspects: physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual. Learning to live whole or integrated is key to living with sexual integrity, and key to reflecting God, who made us in His image and likeness! God has designed us to be in relationship with Him as well as others so learning to live with integrity, or wholeness in all of our relationships, will help your son or daughter throughout their whole life. This includes dealing with friends, having a strong family and incorporating healthy friendships with the opposite sex. The five blueprints below will help you address these issues and more!

 
 
 

Your tween’s relationships

This is a wonderful age but it can be a challenging transition time for your son or daughter. If you have a son, it is typical for him to be somewhat behind the girls in social and relational awareness. This is normal and with a little help, their awareness grows. During these transition years is a good time to train your son or daughter how to treat all people with dignity and respect and to help them confidently care for others. It is also a good time to help them gain a sense of confidence in who they are. You can begin by addressing each aspect of their life specifically and below is an example from each aspect of our focus in the blueprints:

  • Physical: Helping your son or daughter feel good in their own body is important at this stage with big hormonal changes and growth. I recommend you have your child learning new physical skills all the time, even if they are not athletic. There is always something they can do to integrate their body and mind. 
  • Intellectual: Help your son or daughter “conquer” their homework and studies! Embark on a learning adventure of their choice with them. Do a house-cleaning on their viewing and listening habits to create a clean environment then introduce healthier music into their life.
  • Emotional: Encourage them to share their feelings with you and have at least one close friend. At this age, boys need a buddy who they can have an adventures with, and girls need a friend to connect with emotionally through shared experiences and communication. Instead of asking your son, “How do you feel?” which is always a little challenging for males, ask “What do you think about this?”
  • Social: Find opportunities to stretch your son or daughter socially. If they are always in peer-dependent settings, try having different ages of people into your home. Encourage them to be a helper in elementary classes and visit the elderly. If they are uncomfortable with their peers, help them develop friendships. Not all kids are socially adept, however it is a primary skill they need so I will give you tips on how to help your child.
  • Spiritual: A serious look at their spiritual life is essential. Have they personally made a decision to follow Christ? Do they have obvious fruit in their life? Create healthy fun opportunities for them to see spiritual truth and life in action. Find a serving opportunity. Go on a family mission trip. Send them on a church youth retreat. Pray like crazy for them!

 

 
Blueprint Truth #1
 

YOU ARE DESIGNED TO BE WHOLE: MALE AND FEMALE

And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

- Genesis 1:27

Biblical Background

Here we see God, a union of three persons in one (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and He is the first example of perfect wholeness and unity. God made mankind with an essence linked to His image, and man is the only created being with that status! God made human beings complete with five integrated aspects: physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual. Ephesians 4:15 says, “But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects in to Him, who is the head, even Christ.” God intends for us to be whole or complete, so we can “be” who He made us to be. James 1:4 says, “Let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Perfect also means whole. Along with our five aspects God also gave us each a sexual nature, or a core identity, in which to function. Genesis 1:27 says, “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them.” God made mankind male and female intentionally to reflect different aspects of His own nature. Sex then, is not just a physical act, it is our male or female nature. Sexuality is a key part of the core identity of every person and a powerful force in their design! When we express our sex (our nature) through each of our five aspects in an integrated way, we are living with sexual integrity.

 

Application

Did you know men and women are different? Years ago I wrote there was no need for this obvious truth to be taught, but times have changed. Our kids need to have this truth now more than ever that male and female differences matter. From the beginning, God intended to differentiate the sexes for powerful purposes because a partnership that includes two individuals, each with unique gifts and talents, along with biological imperatives is a formidable plan! God created both sexes as equal and uniquely designed to accomplish the expansion of His Kingdom. Our job as parents is to help our son or daughter become who God intended and help them be as confident and competent as possible. At this age, your son or daughter should be learning there are significant similarities and differences in the way God designed boys and girls. In fact, there are such key differences that when we recognize them, we are even more respectful of God’s design! This allows us to encourage the uniqueness of our son or daughter even more. Brain research for instance, has provided volumes of evidence on the brain, and as researcher and author Michael Gurian says: “Brain research does not mean biology is destiny. It means biology is proclivity.” Yes, your son or daughter is unique, but here are some general observations that might impact a classroom setting for instance:

  • Girls have a larger corpus callosum, which gives them more cross-talk in their brain. As a result, girls are more verbal and because of estrogen, identify emotions on someone else’s face with better accuracy. Estrogen improves cooperation and communication.
  • Boys brains are more spatially oriented due to its formation, so they tend to do better on spacial skills tests, enjoy going farther outside and tend to design and play more video games. Testosterone causes boys to take risks and to need isolation at times.
  • The male brain is very task oriented and focuses well. The downside to this is that men do not multi-task as well and get frustrated by interruptions. The male brain however is enhanced by stress where the female brain is inhibited by stress.
  • From infancy, boys look at objects for shorter but more active periods while girls pay attention longer. Boys take in less sensory information so they smell, taste, hear and see less well than girls.

This is a short list, but already you get the idea that we should pay attention to where a young man sits in class or how we communicate with men, for instance. Because girls are more sensitive to other’s emotions and need to talk more, we need to keep this in mind as we structure their interaction. Does this change a classroom environment, youth group or even how our son or daughter studies? Sexual Integrity is living in agreement with God’s intentional design so the more we know of the design, the better!

 

 
 
Blueprint Truth #2
 

YOU ARE DESIGNED TO BE WHOLE: PHYSICALLY AND EMOTIONALLY

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. 

- Ephesians 4:15-16

Biblical Background

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and more, and He did so by speaking. Genesis 1:3 says, “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light.” God, who spoke all things in to being, gave us the ability to “speak” with our bodies. In Genesis 1:28, God gave Adam and Eve dominion over creation, which gave them power or authority in governing. Power comes in many forms, and the power of body language cannot be understated. We are created to “be” a picture of truth: reflecting our Creator. Genesis 1:28a says, “And God blessed them and God said to them, ’Be fruitful and multiply.’” In other words, “be” who God made you to be, and the people around you will see the results. What we say, what we wear, how we act and how we treat people, communicates something. Are we speaking truth or lies? Do our actions communicate truth about us and our identity? Do they communicate truth about God and His identity?

Additionally, God gave us emotions to experience Him and each other in relationship. Our heart, the center of our emotions, is referenced in Scripture over 1,000 times! It is the most commonly used anthropological term. It refers to man’s center of hidden emotional, intellectual and moral activities. The heart is the central driver of man’s thoughts and behaviors, and must be pure after God. Matthew 5:8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Our heart has the capacity to love others, in fact, we are designed to love. Our end, our ultimate purpose or our telos, is to love others. I John 4:12 says, “No one has beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected (brought to completion) in us.” However, all “loves” are not equal. John 13:34 says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” This love is Agape and it is unconditional love, not a love based just on feelings and God’s love toward us is expressed in this word as well. You cannot give too much of this love away! Phileo is brotherly love and this love displays a tender affection. John 3:35 says, “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.” This familial love is rich and appropriate for close friends and family. Then there is Eros: passionate or sensual desire or longing, romantic love. It is not in the New Testament, but is a Greek word that is useful in defining this type of love. Eros love belongs in a committed, mature male/female relationship and involves the heart, but also engages the body and its desires.

Living with sexual integrity physically means walking, talking, dressing and treating other people in such a way that our beliefs and behavior match!

 

Application

Your son or daughter can learn the power of body language at this age. God created them to be whole physically, and this means everything they do with their body needs to be integrated and truthful. What they do with their body sends messages and as I mentioned already, their actions and words either tell the truth about who they are, or lies. Parenting is often an “outside in” job so helping your son or daughter speak truth with their body means practical training, like teaching them to speak nice to others, including siblings. Show them how to act gracious and kind and you will begin to see a change in their heart. Teach them how to dress modestly and appropriately for each situation. Put a suit on a man, and he feels more dignified. Put a ball gown on any girl, and somehow she feels more precious. I’m not saying men need to wear suits, although men you should know they look fabulous! The goal is to dignify our bodies by dressing appropriately for the occasion, while not drawing too much attention to our bodies. Modesty is humility, so in dress and in speech we want to say just enough to be well received. What we do and say with our body matters so train yourself and your children to speak and walk in the truth. Furthermore, it is easier to “think” the right way when we dress and act the right way. Physically living with sexual integrity also means dressing in agreement with our biological design. Guys should dress and look masculine and girls should dress and look feminine. God made us as image bearers, so we are literally pictures on display of His amazing grace!

Living with sexual integrity emotionally, means choosing healthy friendships, loving people authentically and not giving pieces of our heart away prematurely. The issue of boyfriends and girlfriends will be part of your life with your teen from now on, so let’s lay a foundation for current and future discussions.

First, is it good for 7th grade students to “go together?” Research on early dating indicates it can encourage earlier initiation of sexual activity. This is an important reason to postpone dating. Second, how mature and integrated is a person in 7th grade? Most would agree they are still growing up in all aspects of who they are as a person.

Third, if your son has a girlfriend, which of the “loves” do you think he is feeling? If the girl is a friend and they share agape and phileo feelings, they should be called friends, since that is what those loves mean. So, why not validate that they are friends, instead of a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. Then remind them that learning what qualities they are attracted to is good to recognize for building their future spouse resume’. Just because we like someone, doesn’t mean we need to do anything about it, or make them “ours.” Since the average relationship in Jr. High lasts two weeks, it’s wise to keep the friend status, because more than likely, the special feelings will go away. If a “romance” occurs and they break up (which they will), then they lose the friendship and gain awkward feelings. Our goal for our kids is wholeness, not brokenness.

A Girl’s Response
If your daughter engages in a romance and activates eros, romantic love, her whole system is wired to send off bells and whistles and screams, “Prince in the courtyard!” Learning to live with sexual integrity means respecting the powerful design God gave us, and that design’s purpose is oneness with a future spouse. If these design features are awakened prematurely, a young girl’s body may want to draw close to a boyfriend. Her mind will want to connect with him and hear him say certain, romantic words. Her heart will also want to yield (girls naturally submit to the favored man in her life, which should be her daddy at this stage, and for many more years). Then her emotions will become vulnerable, as she plans outfits, dreams about their romance and writes dramatic stories in her head. Girls in particular are all about the story. She cannot help this complex integration…she is made this way. If the prince is older in years, this becomes even more real and more consuming. In the seventh grade, most relationships will last a short time, so is this a good thing?

A Guy’s Response
How about your son? Romance for him is a desire spurred by a visual connection. His design and the way he thinks is also integrated but different than the princess. His body will also want to draw close to the princess, but he doesn’t really think about the romance, and he doesn’t do drama, in fact he is completely unaware that he is simply the lead in “her play!” Did I mention that his body will want to draw close to her? I’m not saying guys are only interested in the physical, but tell me honestly, what 7th grade guy (for that matter, any young teen guy) is going to want all the drama and commitment in a relationship without the privilege of touching? If he says he just wants to be “close” emotionally, and he doesn’t care if they touch, great! We have another category for him, we call it friends. I discourage any young teens from having boyfriends or girlfriends because the process of going together and breaking up (which will happen) creates fracture or brokenness in their heart. It also awakens the physical bonding and each time a teen breaks up and starts a new relationship, they tend to jump physical stages and start where they left off in the prior relationship. It also begins to teach them that breaking up is normal for relationships, and trains them to be more comfortable with disunity, broken friendships and possibly divorce.

 

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Blueprint Truth #3
 

YOU ARE DESIGNED TO BE WHOLE: SOCIALLY

Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person. 

- Colossians 4:6

Biblical Background

We are made for rightly ordered relationships with God and each other, so it’s important we express ourselves socially in ways that are life-giving. One of the most powerful design features God has given us is our ability to communicate. The spoken word can literally change history, and it definitely impacts all of our relationships. Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.” Communication, including how we speak to friends, our family and how we communicate with God, are so important. One of the key training grounds for us to learn how to be socially appropriate and life-giving is within our family. Our families will influence who we are more than anything else… so learning to get along with each unique member of our family is key to our success! Family is God’s chosen foundation for society and His church. Ephesians 3:14 says, “For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” I John 2:10-11 says, “The one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” I John 4:19-21 says, “We love because He first loved us. If someone says, ’I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.”

Living with sexual integrity socially means choosing to be life-giving in our relationships through our communication and the way we treat others and our greatest training camp is our family!

 

Application

God has given you the privilege of raising children and in doing so, you are helping to shape who they are in many ways. Often in our busy lives, family receives the leftovers from each of its members. In other words, our own family is often the recipient of our worst behavior, after we have been our best for everyone else at work and at school. I encourage you to embrace a family policy that says you will do your best to love each other and give each other your best, whenever possible. At this age it can be challenging because your son or daughter wants to please their teachers, coaches, friends etc. and may be tired from all that work! Your kids may come home needing to let down their guard and if they know you as the parent are the “unconditional love” in their life, they won’t pretend or guard their thoughts and speech and that can be kind of messy.☺ When our five kids had these moments, I would tend to them, give them food and some space and didn’t take it personally because I knew they had performed all day. I did however, expect respect so I would not let a daughter or a son go too far beyond grumpy, where words and behavior are damaging to relationships. In our home, parents are respected and honored. Not because we have big egos, but because how a child views and treats authority in their life, is a direct reflection of how they view God. Ephesians 6:1-3 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your Father and Mother (which is the first commandment with a promise) that it may go well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.” Please don’t allow your kids to talk down to you, scream at you or say anything disrespectful at any age. It is beneath your dignity, but it also is beneath your child’s dignity. Mark 7:20 says, “That which proceeds out of the man (or child), that is what defiles (pollutes) the man.” I can assure you, your child needs you to set this firm and loving boundary. If you don’t, you will harm their future interaction with teachers, coaches, pastors and other authorities. Stand firm and be the loving parent, knowing of course there may be a times they say something and you need to forgive them. Thankfully, we all get do-overs! I am also assuming you use respectful speech with your spouse and kids because they are made in the image of God and deserve respect from us as parents.

Family is God’s training ground for them and their future relationships. If they can learn healthy communication within their family, they can work and serve in just about any setting throughout their life. As your son or daughter gets older, they will be communicating in many different forums from school, church, phone, email, texting and eventually social networking websites. It is important they learn what kind of information is appropriate for them to share via a screen because this is what they will do most often. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that meaningful relationships are developed in person, so they should share important news in person. Screens reduce our social modesty, and we often say things we would never say in person. Furthermore, in our culture, we make a mistake believing that self-disclosure is intimacy, or actually knowing someone. It isn’t. Real intimacy takes time, trust, commitment and shared experiences in-person and over time are the ingredients necessary to form a true friendship. Teaching your son or daughter the truth about intimacy levels now will help them be successful in all their friendships!

 
 
Blueprint Truth #4
 

YOU ARE DESIGNED TO BE WHOLE: INTELLECTUALLY

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 

- Colossians 3:2

Biblical Background

The information your son or daughter consumes, thinks about and eventually practices becomes part of their unique personality and character as a person. This is the part of the growing up and maturing process we all choose in our lives, adding to God’s original intentional design of each of us. This process is powerful so we want to be so careful to put things in our mind that make us whole, not broken; holy, not token Christians. Philippians 4:7-8 says, “The peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good reputation, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.” The previous highlighted words are an excellent grid to judge what we should take in or consume. Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” Do you know that your brain is the key operations center of you? What you think about affects what you do and is a big part of the integration of our overall design.

Living with sexual integrity intellectually means choosing to guard our minds so we have right and clean thoughts. It means saying no to “garbage”, and yes to what is true. This includes movies, books, TV, music and the internet.

 

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Application

The old saying, “garbage in, garbage out” is still true. What we consume and put in our mind affects our behavior. Your son or daughter is learning to be discerning about their “visual and audio diet”, and I recommend you set high standards for them. We are made in the image of God, and the images we consume have a big impact on us. TV shows and commercials have so much sexual content and innuendo it is a constant race for the remote. An ongoing concern I have for my family, and you likely share my concern, is we are all so inundated with information, and technology is driving it. The information is coming from so many sources and sadly some of the sources don’t care about your children’s purity or wholeness. Both information and technology are a “good” when used properly and in my ministry and work, I would be lost without them. But, learning to manage both is key if we want to live with sexual integrity. If your son or daughter has an iPod or something similar, you will want to have strict boundaries on music and information they are downloading and teach them how to be self-governing with your oversight. There is no neutral information. All words, music, ideas and images have a natural “end.” If what we see, read and listen to fits in to the biblical grid above, it will result in the profitable fruit of righteousness. Ephesians 4:21-24 says, “If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness and truth.” Have you seen a Spelling Bee lately? It’s amazing what these young kids can do with their minds! These young scholars did not learn to spell correctly by seeing the words mixed up. They consumed the word properly spelled as many times as needed so they could spell it the right way, especially under pressure. How much more important are the bigger issues of truth, righteousness, the gospel, grace, sexuality, modesty and so on! Can you spell transformed?

 

 
 
Blueprint Truth #5
 

YOU ARE DESIGNED TO BE WHOLE: SPIRITUALLY

 

For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority. 

- Colossians 2:9-10

 

Biblical Background

God made man for relationship, but because of original sin, man’s relationship with God was fractured, and man died spiritually and eventually physically. From the beginning, God designed us to be whole in all parts of our being, and in some of our aspects, even though we struggle with a sin nature, we can make choices to strengthen those areas. There is, however, one aspect of you that healthy choices alone cannot heal, your spiritual brokenness. Christ alone is the answer for this, although you still have a choice in this as well! The Bible tells us in Romans 5:19, “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.” In Romans 6:23, it says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Our complete picture of wholeness as people takes place through the saving work of Jesus Christ. Our best efforts cannot take care of our sin nature… only God can do that. To be complete, whole and integrated, we need to surrender to Christ as our Lord and Savior and once we do, the power of the Holy Spirit breathes new life into us and we are spiritually alive! The Holy Spirit then helps us express our maleness or femaleness in all parts of our being in such a way that others see and sense God’s influence in our lives.

Living with sexual integrity spiritually means recognizing that God designed us male and female to reflect Him! Choosing to follow Christ and receiving the gift of salvation, means we are now truly complete. Walking out our nature with the power of the Holy Spirit is when we are at our best!

 

Application

: Your sons and daughters need to know that the decision to follow Christ as Lord for salvation is ultimately their responsibility. It is not a generational transfer, although you can pass on incredible truths to help them make this decision. Often our kids make the decision to be a Jesus follower when they are young. This is fantastic! By seventh grade, if you do not see fruit, you will want to prayerfully ponder whether their commitment was genuine. Galatians 5:22 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” I love to garden. It is where I find peace and hear from God. It is also where I became a big believer in the process of reaping and sowing. When a seed is planted in good soil, it grows. I have made the mistake of using bad seeds, or having non-fertile soil, and both lead to disappointing gardens! The Bible tells us in I Peter 1:23, “For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God.” Children may live in agreement with their parents and seemingly agree with God “ideas”, but they will not bear the fruit of a true follower until they submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. You cannot make them grow… only the seed of righteous truth can produce right standing with God and behavior and desires that are befitting a follower of Christ. Remember, the burden of proof is on them. My encouragement is not to wait till they are older when you hope to see fruit. You may want to encourage a re-commitment of sorts so find authentic opportunities for them to hear good preachers and teachers who will offer them chances to recommit their lives. We all need do-overs and you want to make sure from this age on they are secure in their most important relationship! Caution: this is not an opportunity to become judgmental or legalistic! Your son or daughter does not have to be a Bible scholar to show proof of their faith… but look again at the fruit of the Spirit, and expect a glimpse of each in their lives.

 
 

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