You Say You Want To Start A Rebelution

As silly as it may sound to you, one of the most formative experiences in my life was playing football at Jefferson City High School with legendary coaches Pete Adkins (see Melissa Etheridge’s tribute video) and Ron Cole. Those two men taught me and many of my friends life lessons that went way beyond the playing field and still affect me today. One of their secrets was to set high expectations and then challenge a bunch of teenagers to meet those expectations. It worked. Boys became men as they learned to work hard, take responsibility, and function as a team. In the process each person achieved more than they thought they could. There is something deep in the heart of men (and women) that wants to rise to the occasion and pursue excellence instead of settling for mediocrity.

That instinct was also revealed in two classes I had at the University of Missouri. Community Development had the reputation of being a very easy class–so easy that you didn’t really even have to show up in order to get an A. On the opposite end of the spectrum was Economics 241. It was what was known as a “weed out” class (it weeded out the students who weren’t going to make it through the program). I got an A in the difficult class and if memory serves me right a B in the easy class. How did that happen? The challenging class inspired my best effort because it expected more from me.

I share all of this as way of introduction to a book I read recently entitled Do Hard Things. The authors, Alex and Brett Harris, are 19 year old twins living near Portland, OR. The Harris brothers have a simple message for their fellow teens: Rise above the mediocre standards and expectations that the culture sets for teens and instead Do Hard Things.

They cast a vision of a better way of doing the teen years in which so many teens have been “conditioned to believe what is false, to stop when things feel hard, and to miss out on God’s incredible purpose for [the] teen years.” Over the course of the book the authors look at five different kinds of hard things that can challenge the expectations of those around them: things that are outside of your comfort zone, things that are beyond what is expected or required, things that are too big to accomplish alone, things that don’t earn an immediate pay off and things that challenge the cultural norm.

In the chapter 3: The Myth of Adolescence, the Harris’ show that historically speaking adolescence and the idea of a teenager is very new. The first recorded use of the word “teenager” is in 1941. The book attributes it to Reader’s Digest although Thomas Hine writes in The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager that the word was first published in Popular Science. Regardless of where the first usage occurred, it’s obvious that the concept of an extended period of “growing up” is rather new. The authors state that their problem with the modern notion of adolescence is that it “allows, encourages, and even trains young people to remain childish for much longer than necessary. It holds us back from what we could do, from what God made us to do, and even from what we would want to do if we got out from under society’s low expectations.”

But don’t misunderstand. This isn’t a book written for pastors or parents but for teens. It’s full of stories about teenagers who rebelled against low expectations and did things that no one thought they could. I’m passing it on to my kids to read but I have to admit that I found it inspiring myself. It reminded me of why I’m not inspired by small ambitions and why I want to live for something greater than achieving the American Dream. As a parent of a 13 and 12 year old, this book reminded me that my kids won’t be motivated by being babied but by being challenged.

A few years ago Alex and Brett started a ministry called The Rebelution designed to encourage a counter culture movement made up of Christian teens that “rebel against the low expectations of an ungodly culture.” Read more about their ministry. Visit their blog. Find out more about their one day conferences.

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