Friday, May 24, 2013

Coming of Age

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

When I was in high school, I dated a young man who belonged to a religious group that is generally recognized amongst evangelicals as a 'Bible-based cult'.

[Aside:  that always seemed odd to me, as the premise of belief in that (and other groups that share the same designation) is that the Bible has been corrupted and is not the final word on faith and, in fact, cannot be trusted.  So the term 'Bible-based' seemed but that's a  topic for another day.]

Anyway, I was shocked to learn in the early stages of our relationship that he did not view the Bible in the same way that I did; that he did not believe the church I attended had any authority to operate as a church at all...well, let's just say that there were a NUMBER of points upon which we found ourselves at odds.

But, having grown up in the little evangelic congregation, I had not been much exposed to other viewpoints.  Suddenly, it was not enough to know what my preacher said or what my Sunday School teacher said...I found myself in the position of needing to know what I really believed for myself and began a journey of reading and studying my beautiful little Cambridge King James Bible to find out.

First, I had to decide what I believed about the Bible itself...was it trustworthy?  Or was it corrupted?  Was it truly the word of God, or just a bunch of religious writings by some old dudes a long, long time ago? If I believed God inspired the old dudes to write, then I had to decided what I believed about God...was He really interested in the people walking around on the planet?  Did He even exist, really?

It was a lot of thinking for a 16 - 17 year old.  I won't go through the whole process, but in the end, I decided that I did believe God existed, that He does care about people, that He caused the Bible to be written and preserved it for generations to come...and that what it said was true.

That really should've been the end of that dating relationship, but, well, I really wasn't very emotionally strong as a teen and it took me about 3 years and two tries before it finally ended.  That's also a story for another day.  Maybe.

But the whole process had a benefit that I was not even aware of at the time...I made the decision to live life absolutely as a daughter of God.  I fell in love with His word.  I learned to talk and to listen to Him.

In short, I made the faith that I had grown up learning about part of my identity and character.  I moved from religious observation of rules and doctrine to relationship.

Before I left home.

That has made all the difference in the world in my life.  I have watched church friends, who did not make that decision before leaving home, walk through very dark and difficult things.  Some have come back 'round, with hard earned lessons; some have not and are still struggling in many ways all these years later.

This is why I teach teens today.

Because there comes a time in the life of every kid raised in a Christian home, who grew up going to church and hearing all the Bible stories, when that child has to make a life-determining decision.  Even if they made a profession of faith and were baptized at an early age, the decision still has to be affirmed as a abstract-thinking self-determining young adult.

The decision is to walk in relationship with God, walk in religion or walk away.

The most humbling thing as a teacher of a parent of to see a youngster at that point of decision and know that it is the kid who must make the decision, from their own convictions.

I grieve when I see kids choose to make it religious...'I do the church stuff and then I do what I want' OR have a strict do/do not list of rules to live by...because they have missed the joy of relationship.  I grieve still more when I see kids walk away, who make decisions that cost them so much.

So I pray and I do my best to show these young ones that God is real, He loves each of them as a true daughter, He can be trusted, and the Bible is a love letter full of  wisdom and guidance.  And then I pray some more.

Because I know that the tipping point of decision will set the tone for much of their lives. It matters.

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