Friday, June 16, 2017

One Relationship Away

          About a decade ago, my husband and I retired from a youth ministry that blessed us with relationships that have enriched our lives and filled our spiritual crowns in ways that words truly cannot express this side of Heaven.  We've had the immense joy of watching fathers that we consider brothers give daughters that we consider our own children away at altars we officiate.  We've also had the sorrow of holding the hands of grieving parents at rainy gravesides, heartbroken alongside them, wondering at the shortness of life. Even now, the lives of those "teenagers" touch us still.  Almost everyday, one of them will reach out, proving time, miles, seasons, callings, careers and growing up are pathetic barriers when it comes to love. Just this week, I've prayed with a wife who didn't know how to help her husband, celebrated with a young woman who looked back on a past mistake and realized God was taking care of her, did an absolute happy dance when I found out that one of "my kids" was having another boy, and reminded another one of "my girls" that she really is worth what she's been waiting on her whole life.
          Something about the conversations and prayers I had this particular week got me thinking about some of the common struggles that some of  "our teens" had and I was able to pinpoint a common theme among them. 

          They all went the way of their relationships. 

         We have kids who followed Christ into adulthood, even choosing careers that allow them to minister to scores of people. Kids with beautiful love stories of first kisses on marriage altars.  Kids who have Godly marriages and are raising disciples.  They were the ones who painfully walked away from people who wouldn't serve God with them.  They are the ones that intentionally surrounded themselves with people who were strong in their faith. 
         We also have kids who have been stuck for a decade or more in darkness and depression.  Kids who are either doing drugs or perpetually falling in love with people who are.  Kids who can't count the people they've been sexually intimate with.  Kids who can't or won't hold jobs.  They were the ones who weren't brave enough to say no when their "friends" were tempting them.  They are the ones who found it easier to say yes to bad influences than to good ones.  They are the ones who  lived a life that slowly caused the good influences to shy away from them. 
         Looking back at countless lives, the common indicator of who they would be a dozen years later was who they decided to surround themselves by.  I saw good kids from snazzy neighborhoods with great parents build painfully depressing lives around drugs, self-harm, anxiety and poverty, simply because that was the future of their friends.  I'm still walking with them today through heartaches, heartbreaks, addictions and feelings of failure, and yet the quality of their friendships haven't changed.  I also saw high-risk kids from bad neighborhoods with no parents at all lay their lives on a strong foundation that protects their loved ones and glorifies their Father because they let their friends pull them out of their pits.  Even today, their best friends are Godly.  They chose Godly spouses.  They surround themselves with what they want to become.

        Who are your friends?  Do they truly love Jesus and love you?  Do they love you enough to pull you back when you're tempted to sin?  Do they love you enough to pray with you when you're heartbroken so that your heartbreak doesn't lead you into destructive decisions?  Do they love your marriage or your future marriage enough to encourage prayer and faithfulness?  Do they speak the Word of God to you?  Are you that kind of friend?

         Life is proving the Scriptures true:  Bad company corrupts good character1 Corinthians 15:33 Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. James 5:20.  Walk with the wise and become wise, for a friend of fools suffers harm.  Proverbs 13:20. 

        It's not too late to choose good friends.  It's not too late to tell your enemy that he doesn't get to choose your companions.  It's not too late to help our kids be good friends and find good friends.  Remember, Jesus was 12 when he taught in the temple.  Why do we wait until our children are adults before we expect Godly decisions?  It's not too late.  Take an inventory of who you spend time with and ask God if they are leading you to the future Jesus died for. 
     Remember, according to Proverbs 28:1, the wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous ARE as bold as a lion.
ARE means the righteous are PLURAL.   If you want to be BOLD and RIGHTEOUS, you're going to need a friend to help you. 

             You are one relationship away from a Godly life.    Or not. 


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