We live in a world that attempts to steal our innocence and childlike wonder and replace it with an “over promise – under delivered” happiness that never truly satisfies. Let’s live to preserve our innocence and discover life to the full!
A few weeks ago, I took a group of 7th grade girls to Creekside, a Young Life camp in Central Oregon. It was exhausting, life giving, challenging, draining, fun, moving, and everything in between. Two weeks before camp started, I received a call asking if I would be able to lead. Doubting I could get work off, I called my manager and by the grace of God I was able to get the whole week off! It was with that that I knew the Lord was up to something amazing for that week. I was expectant for Him to show up in BIG ways, and (oh man) did He.
There is SO much I could talk about from those 5 days, but the main idea the Lord has put on my heart is the idea of innocence.
Day 2 of camp we were in our area’s leader meeting, and a leader came forward almost dumbfounded by the fact that every girl in her cabin was living under one roof with both parents. The rest of the leaders were equally struck as it goes against the 50% divorce rate, but it only took me a moment to have the reality of the situation settle in….
When I was in 7th grade, my parents were under the same roof. All seemed good and dandy. I would have said life was great! But only a year later all that would be changing as my parents were on the way to getting a divorce. It was there, sitting on the ground in a circle with the hot central Oregon sun on my back, that it hit me.
These girls are in a stage of their lives marked by innocence, and it is an innocence that I want them to preserve and live out of for as long as possible.
Yes, a lot of them have had hard times with family, friends, or school issues but for the majority of them nothing CRAZY has happened yet. They still listen and respect their parents for the most part. Their birthday parties involve eating pizza, playing games and wearing clothing, not getting drunk, making bad decisions, and not wearing more than a strip of clothing around their top and bottom as an “outfit.” Their summer activities involve going to get Slurpees and candy and playing outside in the park or on the river, instead of sneaking off with a bottle of Vodka and being mischievous with one another. Their issues revolve around gossip and friendship drama, not friends getting killed in car accidents or drug overdoses. Throughout the week, I learned more and more about how their innocence was being tampered with – almost all of my girls told me they had been asked for nudes over snapchat (what is this world coming to??), but a majority of them do not deal with big issues, and have not been hurt deeply.
They have this innocence to them. A childlike wonder I never want them to lose.
When Innocence Is Lost
It was at this point that I started to think back to the last time I was at Creekside, and the group of gals I brought with me then. They too were innocent, full of childlike wonder and awe at everything around them. But now, a few years later, that seems to not be the case. They seem to be the ones wrapped up in the party scene. In the drinking scene. In the acceptance from boy scene. In the worldly scene that seems so tantalizing and tempting and alluring of fun, freedom, and good stories.
The scene that over-promises and ALWAYS under-delivers.
And it saddens me. It actually tears me apart on the inside. I think back to their younger selves dressed up in ripped black shirts with scrunchies in their hair and black eye-liner, strumming air-guitars and rocking out for team olympics, or dressed to the nines in their luau attire for the poolside formal dinner. I pictured them singing their hearts out to Katy Perry and Taylor Swift in the club room and going down the zip line with the biggest smiles on their faces.
I wonder if they would be able to find joy in activities like that now? I wonder if they have that childlike excitement and anticipation to see what is next.
At camp, everyday they would ask us leaders, “What’s next?” “What are we doing today?” “What do I need to be prepared to do?” “Am I going to get wet?”
There was a joyful expectancy about them.
I wonder if they are still asking those questions in their own lives, or if they are kinda just floating through the motions and going to this party because everyone else is going, and wearing that outfit because everyone else looks that way. I wonder if they are being “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming” –Ephesians 4:14
I pray they aren’t doing that. I pray these girls see that there is so much more to life than going to the same dumb college house party every weekend, wearing the same skimpy outfit, drinking the same intoxicating poisonous cheap alcohol each week.
I pray they see the adventurous life that is out there waiting to be discovered and experienced every hour of everyday.
What would life be like if we came to God everyday asking him, “What’s next?” “What are we doing today?” “What do I need to be prepared to do?” Can you imagine all of the adventures we would go on? It would be glorious.
The Potential In This All
So here I sit, reflecting back on these mature young women who have a hunger and a thirst for the Lord. Women who cried when they thought about their friends who aren’t Christians yet, and the fact they won’t be in Heaven with them if they don’t believe. Women who asked hard questions, and desired to learn what it looks like to walk with Jesus. Women who want to wear their cross necklaces to school even when the school tells them they can’t. Women who want to stick together and be close friends and not turn on one another in an effort to fit in. Women, who even in their youth, want to go out there and be the change.
So then my brain started going and thinking and dreaming:
If these women go into their high school fired up on Jesus and assured of the power Jesus tells them they have when walking with Him, they could have the potential to change their community and culture! I can see them rolling up as the God Squad going to all the parties but not having to drink to have a good time and being a light through their actions. I can see them showing the people around them what love looks like inside of friendships and not gossiping, comparing, or competing with one another. I can see them being nice to the outsiders and welcoming them in to their group to hang out and join in on the adventurous life they are living through the Lord. I can see this all happening, and I know they have it in them.
The only question is, will they listen to Jesus’ beckoning pursuing call to live this way, or will they let the world take them somewhere else?
They have the potential to change their high school, but with their high school instead change them?
We live in a world where the devil is out to steal, kill and destroy. He wants to take our innocence, corrupt our desires, and like a cookie cutter, make us in the mold of the culture around us, but praise the Lord that we serve a God who is stronger and mightier than the devil will ever be.
It is now up to us to say ‘yes’ to the Lord, and trust Him to be there for us through every situation regardless of what we are going through and live into the potential He created us with. I pray you will be strong and choose The Way of Jesus instead of being”tossed back and forth…. by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.”
For everyone reading this, my prayer is that “you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky” -Philippians 2:14-15
You have the potential to shine among this world like the stars in the sky. Let your light shine, and do all you can to protect your light from being “hushed” out by the devil.
You have been chosen, forgiven, loved and invited by the King of Kings.
The rest is up to you.