His bags were packed with clean, neatly folded clothes. Including sunscreen was perhaps overly optimistic, but I did hope the toothbrush and toothpaste would see a little action throughout the week. My thirteen-year old son was leaving for camp with our church’s youth group. If last year’s trip was any indicator, he’d come home wearing the same clothes and not having opened his toiletry bag even once. Personal hygiene issues aside, I was excited about his week away. For me, youth camps had always been a significant time of spiritual growth and good, clean fun.
My husband and I sat on the couch with our son a few minutes before his departure and tried to plant seeds for the week. “So, what kinds of goals do you have for camp?” His dad asked. “I dunno,” he said with a shrug. Trying to prime the pump, I threw out a few suggestions, “Maybe there’s one new activity you can try that you didn’t do last year. Or maybe you could make a new friend.” He continued to sit without a glimmer of a response. I forged ahead, trying to sound casual. “I think it’s great to make spiritual goals when you go to camp. Like, maybe you could try reading your Bible or praying every day.” Still nothing. Finally, my husband told him we would just tell God about our goals for his week. He was fine with having us pray for him, but didn’t want to chime in. I wasn’t disappointed in the least. I couldn’t be more pleased that he attends youth group, gets excited to go to camp and likes the Christian music we listen to at home. I know a spiritual foundation is being laid in him and he’s heading in the right direction. I certainly wasn’t mature in my faith at thirteen.
One thing I’m realizing about spiritual growth for people of any age is that it only happens when we position ourselves to receive God’s truth. This happens when we spend time in places and with people who value having a relationship with Jesus. Each decision we make brings us a step closer to God or a step farther away. The more we read the Bible and implement what we’re learning, the more we continue to mature spiritually and see the blessings of living aligned with God’s will.
It’s like driving on a winding road or over a bridge. We know the guardrail on the side is there to protect us from harm and make us feel safe, not to limit our freedom.
Similarly, spending time in places and with people who value God gives us spiritual guardrails that keep us on track in our faith journeys. For my son, it’s youth group, summer camp and parents who pray for him often. For adults I know, it’s participating in Bible study consistently, attending church, enjoying Christian friendship and spending time alone with God. These things keep our hearts teachable and our minds open to the ways God wants to stretch us.
The apostle Paul explains it this way:
“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.” (Titus 3:3-8, NIV)
Those who don’t know Christ live dangerously outside the guardrails that keep people pointed toward God. They are foolishly deceived by passions and pleasures, but think they are living ultimate freedom by giving in to their fleshly desires. Those in Christ, however, have become His heirs and have received the hope of eternal life. Because of this, followers of Christ devote themselves to doing what is good so that their lives bless others and honor God. The hindrances of sin no longer hold them back from living the abundant life God intends.
The ways we spend our time, the people we surround ourselves with, the things we watch, listen to and read all affect our view of God and His plans for us. How are you doing with living inside the protection of His guardrails? Are you pushing against them, enticed by the deceptions of our culture and its definition of “freedom”? What subtle influences pull you closer to Him? Which ones draw your attention away?
Every day the world bombards us with words and ideas that we can accept or reject in light of the truth of God’s Word. When we run towards Him, we remember we are beloved children of the King of Kings. Living inside the guardrails is exactly where I want to be.
Click on the link to hear the inspiring and upbeat song “Who I Am” by Blanca.