It is football season and what better time would there be then now to share the Parable of the Flying Cheerleader. Life as a teenager is like being a flyer on a cheer leading team. Let me explain.
Spectators are always impressed with the stunts cheer leading teams perform at fall football games. This is truly a team sport. Ever member of the team has great value and responsibility to ensure that a stunt goes well.
Life as a family, as a ward, as a community is also a team sport. Ever member of the family plays a valuable part in the success of other family members, especially our youth. Every church member holds a responsibility to up lift and to encourage others, especially the youth. Ever member of the community contributes to the amazing things young people do everyday.
The base of the stunt is responsible to lift, catch and keep safe the flyer. The members of the base are the one that can save a stunt if it starts going south. The base must be confident in their ability and strength. A base must be able to move under the flyer to keep the flyer high and safe. The base must have perfect timing, stopping the flyer from going into the air like a wobble board. If the members of the base go at different times the flyer will have no choice but to look like a wobble board. The base must practice their timing without the flyer first to get the timing perfect. The placement of the base is important. Side bases need to be sure they are not standing any further apart then the flyer’s shoulder width and back bases need to be sure they are standing as close to the side bases as possible. The further apart they are, the harder it is for everyone.
The base for youth is made up first with parents, followed by loving Bishops, teachers and leaders, including prophets. It is their responsibility to lift, catch and keep safe the youth as they learn to “fly,” strengthen their testimonies, develop their skills and strike out into the world on their own. This parent base must be strong and attentive to keep their teen flying confidently and safely. They must be confident in their faith, strong in their testimony, flexible in their habits and traditions as the Spirit (coach) guides and directs their efforts in keeping their “flyer” safe. This parent and leaders base must practice their skills and timing on their own. They must practice scripture study, personal prayer, service and keeping the commandments for themselves to be have perfect timing so that their beloved teens fly strong and confident. Parents and church leadership work together to strengthen the faith and testimonies of the youth. More importantly, they must stand firm and together and with the Lord and His prophets to lift and strengthen and inspire youth in righteous endeavors.
As a member of the base I must be trust worthy so that the youth I lift and inspire know that I can lift, can strengthen, can catch and can keep them safe.
Although bases have the strenuous job of lifting, catching and keeping their flyer safe, the flyer position take an abundant amount of physical effort. Flyers must practice over and over how to stand solidly with legs locked. They must train their muscle and backs to be strong and flexible. Flyers must stretch daily, on their own, in addition to all the other activities involved in practice. Flyers must have a keen sense of body awareness and know where they are in the air, understand the counts of the routine, and have confidence to keep going when things don’t go as expected. Flyers progressively… in stages… line upon line… learn. They start with the basics of weight distribution, body position, locking legs, and what it means to be “tight.” Flyers don’t rush in to a stunt. They learn a stunt step by step so they can fly with confidence and poise. Flyers just don’t pop up and look cute. Flyers are driven, detail-oriented and athletic individuals always looking for ways to perfect their skills. Flyers trust the base. Successful flyers know that the base can lift, catch and keep them safe.
Teens are fliers. They are striking out into the world, all eyes on them, making an impression and finding their way. They must practice over and over to lock their testimonies and faith into place so that they can stand tall in any given situation. They must train their minds and their hearts to hear and respond to the whispering of the Spirit. They must train to follow the prophet and to be obedient “with exactness.” Like a flyer, teens must practice daily the things that will keep them strong and free from permanent injury. They must practice daily scripture study, personal prayer and service. Teens must also practice with their base, their parents and leader, by participating in family scripture study, family prayer, family home evening, and church activities. Learning step by step takes time and practice. Teens must be willing to spend the time and give the effort to truly succeed in the gospel plan. They must trust the “coach”, the Spirit, and heed to His counsel. As teen flyers they must be aware of where they are, who they are and where they are going. Teens must develop a faith and trust in the Lord (coach) and in His appointed “base,” their parents and leaders. Righteous youth know their parents love them, inspire them, lift them, teach them, catch them, save them and keep them safe. Righteous youth build their testimonies on a solid base, a solid foundation rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Ok… this isn’t quite a parable… but it helped make a point in Sunday School today. I was trying to teach the teens in my class that the things they were familiar with could teach them gospel principles. I asked them to think of something they knew well and to compare it to a gospel principle. I had to help. I knew the activities they were involved with and started to describe how each of those activities could teach gospel principles. They said I was a genius. LOL.
The genius is the Lord when it comes to teaching with parables.
Why a parable?
Some feel that a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly message. Jesus taught in parable to illustrate profound divine truths. His stories are easy to remember with bold characters and are rich in symbolism. His stories were common to Jewish life in His day. He employed many graphic analogies using common things that were familiar to everyone (salt, bread, sheep, etc.) The meanings were fairly clear in the context of His teaching. Parables often required more explanation.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell has said, “As Master Teacher, Christ tailored His tutoring, depending upon the spiritual readiness of His pupil.” In this way the parable revealed and concealed at the same time. Jesus’ parables showed both the justice and the mercy of God at work among those who heard them. Two people could hear the same story and get entirely different experiences.
Just how do you get the most out of parables, old and new? STUDY! PRACTICE! You must study what it meant to them, there and then. Then you go to work to apply the lessons of the parable. You must ponder what is means to me, here and now.
The easiest way to understand the parables is to look for the explanations given by the Savior, himself. They are usually in the same chapter. You can also look for more information about the background and setting of the parable. Who is He talking to? Why did He tell this story? How does the story answer a question? You should also say a quick little prayer and ask the Lord to guide you as you seek meanings of stories and symbols. The Holy Ghost is a better guide to spiritual interpretation and application than any commentary out there.
The beauty of a parable is that there are often many applications and interpretations. They have endless teaching value.
Diligent study and application of the parables of Jesus has brought me closer to the central purpose of life… coming to Christ and living His gospel. I am not a parable genius. I have just learned that parables are an invitation to investigate truth; to learn more about how the Savior teaches His children; to move in the direction of light and knowledge and understanding.