Last fall I had the privilege and joy of giving a devotional at my 12 year-old niece’s birthday party, a joint celebration with another friend whose birthday was near. They had invited their very nearest and dearest chums, many of which they had known since kindergarten, and it was a very special affair, held at the most elegant tea room in town. The girls were just beautiful, all dressed in their best with polished manners at the ready, and I couldn’t help but remember myself at their age, so eager to be grown up and treated like a lady, and yet clinging to the vanishing wisps of childhood.
As I prayed and pondered my little talk in the days leading up to the party, I stood face-to-face with the 12 year-old Lanier that was. Skinny and shy, the one that always got put at the top of the cheerleading pyramids because I was the littlest one on the squad and too timid to protest. Called down by teachers for daydreaming and teased by the boys for dropping my books roughly once per class period. A veritable mouse, with a whole country of imagination at my easy access. And a brand-new daughter of God, to boot.
What would I tell myself at 12 if I had the impossible opportunity of such an interview? What kind of vision would I try to cast? What would I underscore as the Most Important Thing?
What would I say to these lovely young friends of my niece, with their confident smiles and easy comradeship and eyes bright with hopes for the future? After scrapping several drafts, I sat still and tried to listen to God. And this is what I came up with:
I want everybody to think about what they want most in the whole wide world. Close your eyes, if you want to. If you could have anything, what would it be?
(I let the girls volunteer their deepest wishes and many of theirs put mine to shame. Like world peace and no more wars.)
These are all good desires.
But there are bad desires out there—and the scary thing is that many of them are in our own hearts, right alongside the good ones.
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin…
Romans 7:21-23 (NIV)
We’re talking about a battle here.
In II Timothy 2:22, the Bible says that we are to ‘flee the evil desires of youth’. We’re always going to be struggling against evil and sin, but some of the most critical battles you are ever going to fight in your whole life are right now—when you’re young.
Have you ever wanted anything that you knew was bad or disobedient?
We all do. We all get tricked by our own sin into wanting things that God says are wrong or not good for us. Less than His best.
Sin means literally to ‘miss the mark’. To miss out on what God had for you.
To make things worse, as you all grow up, the world is going to try to cram a whole lot of things down your throats, things that are supposedly worth running after. Things that are supposedly true.
~What you look like on the outside is more important than who you really are on the inside—you should dress, talk and act just like everybody else.
~True love isn’t worth waiting for—it’s better to go from boyfriend to boyfriend than saving yourself for the man that you are going to marry someday.
~Your worth lies in what you do—how smart you are, what a great ballet dancer or basketball player or horseback rider you are—and not in the fact that the God who made the universe is absolutely in love with you. That you are the most beautiful thing that He has ever seen and that He loved you so much He sent His Son to die for you.
It’s so easy to convince ourselves of these things when the world around us seems to be shouting them at us every single day.
But God has an answer. It’s in that same verse in II Timothy 2: 22
He says to FLEE evil desires. Run away. Literally vanish. It’s like someone offered you drugs, or something you knew was not right, and they just looked up and you were GONE. Into thin air. It can take more courage to run away.
But He doesn’t just say to flee one thing. He also says to FOLLOW something else. And that’s the good part.
All things that characterize a relationship with Jesus Christ.
But there’s more—
He says to follow these things WITH those that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
You don’t have to do it alone. In fact, what the Bible says is that one of the very best things you can do for your faith is to surround yourself with people that love Jesus.
God blessed me with some very special friends in my teenage years, and without them I don’t think I would be fully ‘me’.
~My friend Amanda taught me that it’s a whole lot more fun to be yourself, exactly who God made you to be, than trying to squeeze into everybody else’s mold.
~My friend Rachel taught me to love the things that God loves and to desire Him with all my heart and soul.
Sometimes we still have to stand alone, though. Our friends aren’t always going to be there. Before I met Amanda and Rachel, my two best friends were Anne Shirley and Jo March. 😉
And that’s why I want to encourage you to make friends of books.
Not just any books—you have to be as careful with book friends as you are with ‘real’ ones. Are they following the things that you want to follow? Are they people you would want to be like?
And beyond all of these, there is the best Friend you will ever have. He’s not only going to point you in the right direction. He’s going to help you get there. I was about your age when I really started to get to know Jesus, through His word and through talking to Him in prayer. And I am here to tell you, it changed the whole course of my life.
You’re never too young to spend time with Him every day.
You are about to enter one of the most beautiful and the most dangerous seasons of your lives. It’s like you’re walking across a battlefield.
But God has clearly marked out the dangerous places for you and He promises to guide you safely through them if you ask Him and obey Him.
And He also promises to give us the desires of our hearts—the things we may not even know that we want ourselves but are really and truly what we’ve been made for—if we delight ourselves in Him
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4 (ESV)
There is nothing that this world could ever offer you that is so worthy of following as Jesus Christ.
Let me tell you, He doesn’t want any of you to live an ordinary life. It can be the most beautiful adventure–with heaven at its end.
He says in John 10:10 (ESV): I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
Do you know what that means? It means to the hilt!!
Life that is *really* life.
And it’s the adventure of a lifetime.