Black Lipstick

It can be really difficult to be the parent of a teenager. Teens often spend time trying on different personalities.

I remember when our son, Shawn, was in junior high. He and some friends formed a really bad garage band. Seriously, they were bad. (The funny thing is that they’re all good musicians.) The band’s name was 21D (pronounced two one D, not twenty-one D; it’s a long story). Part of his stage persona involved black polish on the nails of his mic hand, black lipstick, and dyed hair. I know that that sounds like something that should concern a parent. However, they were writing their own songs, songs about walking the walk; sexual purity; deepening your relationship with God. At that same time Shawn was instigating conversations about doing church as opposed to following Christ.

Since I knew where his heart and his head were, I wasn’t concerned about the look he was adopting. The Furry Guy and I had decided long before we had our son that we were going to pick our battles carefully. How he wore his hair and what clothes he wore weren’t issues we were willing to go to the mat for.

The summer between 6th and 7th grades Shawn went to church camp. Like many kids that age, he didn’t feel like he fit in anywhere. At camp he met a group of guys he really clicked with. The young man who was in charge if his cabin did a wonderful job of making all of the boys feel like they were a family within the larger family of believers. One night, as a symbol of solidarity, they all painted their fingernails blue. They pledged to leave the polish on until it wore off as a reminder that they belonged together. If I remember right, it was also to serve as a reminder to pray for one another. The polish wasn’t dark. Actually, it was barely noticeable. But, they knew it was there.

The day we picked Shawn up from camp, a Saturday, we put him on a plane to Florida to visit my parents. That night my mother made him remove the polish. You see, what her friends at church the next day might think was more important to her than Shawn’s feelings.

I don’t really blame my mom. Most of us are guilty of that kind of thing at one time or another. It’s difficult to allow teenagers to pursue their own fashion mishaps when we know that people will judge us by the way they’re dressed. Shawn only wore the black lipstick and nail polish when he was performing, but the hair dye was there to stay. He also began wearing baggy (though, not saggy) jeans with 3 or 4 boxes of safety pins pinned all over them. I was a church secretary at the time, and I can tell you that I took a lot of flack for his fashion choices.

But, I ask you, which was more important—his black (or blue, or pink) hair and pinned jeans or his growing walk with Christ? He soon left the church we were attending as a family to attend another local church with his mentor. I took even more flack for that, but when that young man left our house he knew what he believed and why he believed it.

Was I sometimes embarrassed by the way my son was dressed? To be honest, yes. Am I glad that we allowed him to explore his own beliefs, likes, and attitudes? You better believe it.

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