New Encouragement for You: Face Time {an interview with Kristen Hatton}

CHRISTINA FOX|EDITOR

Our own Kristen Hatton has just written a new book, Face Time: Your Identity in a Selfie World. I recently interviewed her to learn more about the book.

Christina: Summarize Face Time. Who is it written to? 

Kristen: Face Time: Your Identity in a Selfie World is a book for teen and college girls. The heart behind it stems from many years of ministering to girls this age (starting when my husband was a RUF pastor), but specifically in walking alongside my own daughter in her struggle with an eating disorder. I’ve seen how easy it is for teen girls, as with the rest of us, to seek an identity in appearance and performance, looking for validation, acceptance and love through false sources. And social media has exacerbated the feeling of not measuring up and the need to be perfect for so many girls.

After realizing how social media had impacted my daughter’s negative view of self and contributed to her eating disorder, I designed and conducted an online anonymous teen survey, which really became the crux behind Face Time. I received back so many eye-opening and heart-breaking responses from girls all over the country—in big cities and rural areas, and from private, public, and homeschool environments—struggling with the same things in the same ways.

Issues of body image, comparison, sex, substance abuse, cutting, eating disorders, materialism, and perfection could all be tied back to social media, though I don’t believe social media is the real problem so taking it away will not ever produce the cure. Just as these other issues are symptoms, or pointers, to the something deeper really going on in the hearts of girls, what girls need to hear but so often don’t (even believers) is the reorienting truth of the doctrine of justification—who Jesus is for them. Not hearing this and seeing their identity and worth bound up in him, they try to secure an identity—to know they are okay—in other ways.

Part I of the book starts in the garden to help them gain a deeper understanding of sin—not just the big external behavioral sins—but sin as turning away from the one true God and looking to god replacements to give what only he can. I want them to see idolatry for what it is and to be able to recognize the hidden desires, cravings for attention, and manipulation as sin and the reason they need a Savior. Jesus is then shown as the One who came and got in the boat with them—all of us. He experienced everything we did so that he could identify with us in our sin and suffering. Not only that, but he lived the perfect life for us and crowned us with his worth, secured on the cross. Again, justification! Theology matters, and what we believe about God and ourselves has everyday implications.

Part II of the book then is a collection of narratives of girls struggling with a different specific issue in each story. In reading the story, I think the reader will identify herself and others as struggling in similar ways. Hopefully this will give her the eyes to see what lies she is believing and the truth she needs to hear to reorient her back to an identity found in Christ. Each story has a set of questions that can be done by an individual or would be great group discussion. My ultimate hope is this book will give teen and college girls a gospel grid and the gospel self-talk they need to refute the lies of Satan and this world and help them rest in Christ’s perfect worth and work for them.

Christina: Can you share a couple of favorite quotes from the book? 

Kristen: I can’t ever seem to find short “Instagram-able” type quotes in my writing! But here are a few sentences/paragraphs that give you a taste…

  • On our own, we humans buy into the lies that tell us we can find our significance and worth from the things the world offers. We think that happiness or “life” comes through our performance, status, success, or stuff. We try to find our identity in how well we are doing, how we look, or who we hang out with. But Jesus tells us not to seek an identity in this way. Looking to these things to give you worth and value will never satisfy. Jesus wants us to know that when we try to find our identity, worth, or value in something besides him, our very being—who we are at our core—gets lost.
  • We decide what’s true based on what we see and think, not on what God’s Word says to be true. Even if what we see is nothing more than a filtered Instagram picture, it can carry more weight in determining how we view ourselves than what God says about who we are.
  • When you find your true self in Jesus, you can stand when everything else is sinking around you. No matter what your weakness, struggles, sin, or brokenness, these do not define you or disqualify you for the love of Christ. It is because of our sin that Jesus became one with us so that we could become one with him. We can rest secure in the identity and worth he has given us.
  • The identity you long for—to be accepted, included, loved, and significant— is already yours in Christ.

Christina: Can you share a couple of endorsements for the book? 

Kristen: Yes, I am excited by the response I’ve received for Face Time from those who have given endorsements and also those unable to write one due to time restraints. Jessica Thompson, Give Them Grace co-author, alongside her mom Elyse Fitzpatrick, has written a beautiful foreword that you’ll have to get the book to read. But I’ll share a couple from our own enCourage writers, along with one from Michael Horton and Jon Nielson:

“As a father of teens, I often feel overwhelmed and ill-equipped with the changes that social media are making in our everyday lives. Kristen Hatton has provided a huge dose of information, wisdom, and gospel-oriented encouragement in this book. I highly recommend it.”

Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Theology, Westminster Seminary California, author of Core Christianity and co-host of the White Horse Inn

“As a woman, mom, friend, and former teenage girl herself, Kristen Hatton understands the intense pressure and devastating effects of trying to measure up in a constantly changing culture. With compassion and clarity, she offers wisdom that is deeply rooted in God’s Word and God’s character. She offers practical help and real hope as she shows the reader how to find the freedom that comes only through an identity in Christ.”

Courtney Doctor, author of From Garden to Glory, director of Women’s Ministry at Kirk of the Hills, PCA

“As I read Facetime, I thought of adult women I’ve discipled who’ve struggled with similar pain and sin as the teen girls highlighted in this book. How might their faith and lives been impacted, had they read Facetime when they were younger?  I recommend this book for every ‘little woman’ and those who love and disciple them. Facetime is the gospel-filled, wisdom-rich book I’ve longed to see written!”

Ellen Mary Dykas, Women’s Ministry Director, Harvest USA

Author of Sexual Sanity for Women: Healing from Sexual and Relational Brokenness and Sex and the Single Girl: Smart Ways to Care for Your Heart

“Kristen has offered Christian girls and young women a rich, gospel-saturated gift in this book!  She blends biblical theology and the story of redemption with frank and realistic engagement with today’s youth culture and its dangers, and does so conversationally and winsomely.  As a pastor/chaplain to high school and college students for the last 10 years, and now a father to daughters of my own, I commend this book to you as a solid resource for guiding young women toward an unshakeable identity that is grounded in the promises of a good and gracious God.”

Jon Nielson, author of Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry and Faith That Lasts: Raising Kids Who Don’t Leave the Church.

Christina: How can parents of teens help them navigate social media and the inevitable problem of not measuring up? 

Kristen: There is no easy answer to this one. But something interesting I learned from my survey is most teens indicated that they did not feel like they could talk honestly with their parents. The reasons: they felt like they would be judged or misunderstood. So I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that we enter in with our kids; that we get into the boat with them as Jesus did for all of. We must identify with them as fellow fallen worshipers in desperate need of a Savior, because when they know mom and dad are in the boat and we understand depravity and sin and meet them in it with grace and compassion, it changes the nature of the conversations we can have with our kids.

With that being said, conversations with our kids are often limited to the day’s events and what is easily seen on the surface, assuming if they act fine they are. Therefore, many times parents miss knowing how their teen is interpreting what they see on social media, or why they made the comment they did on someone else’s post. This was me! I even had a close relationship with my daughter—one where I felt like we talked about everything—but I had no idea until she shared her struggle with an eating disorder how she was internalizing pictures she saw on Instagram and comparing herself to others. So, what I’ve learned is we have to probe deeper. We must get to the heart. We must help them uncover their false gods, so they see their need. And then point them to the One who measured up perfectly for them.

Christina: How do you handle social media in your own home, with your teens?

Kristen: I know everyone differs here and each kid is different, but my teenagers do have phones and are on social media. Since they are, I think it’s imperative that I also be on the social media they are on. I follow them and as many of their friends as I can. To me this is a window into their lives and the lives of their peers. For our family, it has also led to really good conversations stemming from things that have been posted or that I’ve become aware of just from paying attention. So with the belief social media is not the real problem, I use it as an opportunity to help my kids identify the deeper issues going on in their hearts and the hearts of others. Things like the craving for acceptance and approval, and looking to find worth in appearance and performance.

Christina: Tell us more about you. What do you like to do for fun?

 Kristen: I am a misplaced Texan living in Oklahoma. Much to my husband’s surprise back 8-9 years ago when he was approached about leaving RUF to plant a church in Edmond, Oklahoma I actually got on board and became excited. So he took that as the prompting of the Holy Spirit that this is where God was calling us because it’s no small thing for a Texas girl to leave her roots!

I was born and raised in Houston, and then moved to Dallas for college, stayed there for work and met my husband at Park Cities Presbyterian when he was in seminary. Our move to Waco, Texas, where he was the Baylor RUF pastor for 7 years, was in some ways harder than moving to Oklahoma because all I knew was big city life. But God has used both our moves to grow and change me and for that I’m thankful.

We have three teenagers, a daughter who is at the University of Arkansas, and two sons, one in high school and one in middle school. Much of my time right now revolves around the boys’ sports and I have to say as hard as it was having our daughter leave for college, I have embraced being a full-out boy mom and am starting to get involved with the parent football and wrestling booster clubs. I also serve on the PTO at the high school as I have found it a great way to get to know other moms, teachers, administrators, and stay informed about what is going on at the school and with teenagers.

As for fun (and I know not everyone sees it this way) I love all types of exercise and outdoor activities. Each week I try to incorporate time with at least one friend during a walk or after the gym for coffee. I also enjoy cooking, party planning and entertaining in our home, which I think stems back to my former days as a wedding coordinator and my true professional background in political fundraising and event planning! I get great inspiration (and clothes!) from my one day a week job at Anthropologie. And last but not least, I love to travel!

Christina received her undergraduate degree from Covenant College and her Master’s Degree in Counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University. She writes for a number of Christian ministries and publications including True Woman, Desiring God, and The Gospel Coalition. She is the content editor for enCourage and the author of A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope Through the Psalms of Lament. Christina also serves on the advisory board at Covenant College. She prefers her coffee black and from a French press, enjoys antiquing, hiking, traveling, and reading. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two boys. You can find her at www.christinafox.com, @christinarfox and on Facebook.

 

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