Do we ever out-grow “little” lessons?
Example: When we are young we are encouraged not to give into peer-pressure. Most of us can remember something that invited some person or some influence to encourage us not to give into this spirit that seeks to please ourselves by giving into people around us or to go against the pressure to do things like “everybody else” because we don’t want to be so different or ridiculed.
The lessons of youth has many faces. But what does it look like in the “adult world”? No much different really if we think about it. The voices of those who pressure us have the exact same ring at thirty and older as thirty and younger.
“Come ooonnnn! You gotta come out and hang with us/me at least here or there! You don’t have to do such and such just come be part of me doing it”
Or inner responses don’t change their tune much either.
“Well… maybe I’ll just go and x (fill in the blank). It won’t hurt if I don’t do what they do and just hang out with them. I can control myself and maybe I’ll even be setting a good example to them too.”
Yep. .. exactly the same from five years old to ninety five. There’s the choice to do what God says, exactly the way He says to do it or to revamp and revise what He says with our own way of rationalizing. In fact, the older we get the more in danger we become to this conundrum. Why? Because the older we are the more we think we know and apply what we know to what to us can sound an awful lot like sound wisdom. At least when we’re young we can claim ignorance or naivety. Young or old though set-apart is set-apart. Going against the flow, standing out while convincing ourselves and trying to appear to others like we’re standing up. When we’re older we can feel more confident in ourselves because of areas we’ve gained ground over temptations. Whereas, when we’re young almost every temptation is fresh and new and a lesson to be learned.
God’s instruction to separate ourselves from even the appearance of evil is not meant to protect us like some back-boneless imp. It’s meant to protect everyone involved. Go back up and read the peer-presured lament. Particularly the last line.
“Just come be apart of me doing it.”
What our human ears hear (young or old) is: “hey, I like you. I want to be with you. It’s about relationship really.” Its a lie. Relationship is about honor, encouraging others to do the right and pure and good things, based on truth not fudging. What they are really saying is: “hey, I like you but you need to be more like me so when I’m with you I won’t feel the weight of the fact that I know I could be better than I am.” The motive comes from the pit of hell – quite unbeknownst to the pressurer. “God is no fun. Give in a little, then you’ll be liked more and accepted. Show how strong you are! You don’t need God to keep you set-apart! You can be set-apart using what God says but changing it up a bit. .. no need to be so religious and goody-two-shoe’d! God said ‘be in the world just not of it.’ So be in it, just do it your way. That’s just as separate as His way! Look at all the experience you have, all God has brought you through! Your love for Him will protect you. Your over-coming in this area and that area will give you strength this time.”
We do not know that the second we compromise this cancer called leprosy of the soul begins to make your heart a petri dish. We will buy a lie in exchange for God’s exact truth everytime we make revisions to it. We become numb to its subtle slip into a picture that corrodes both the peer and everyone we say we love; first and foremost God. The second we step into the pressure and give in we will not even feel where the slip begins. Because it begins under the auspices of “relationship” between us and another. The damage that will ensue will decay our real relationship with God and all those we claim to have one with. We can not go with someone to be a friend when the very going with them will encourage them to do what is harmful to them. That which is not right but wrong. No matter how restrained we may be we have just entered into relationship that is not relationship but a show encouragement to their destruction and potentially our own. We begin to doubt God and His reign begins to feel like rules and we will begin to question Him. Or perhaps there are those who encourage us in the Lord and we will begin to place them in a light makes them feel to us, like they put pressure on us and we will slowly pull away. Slowly, but surely peer-pressure given into (at any age) kills our ability to have true relationship and love with anyone. Because the first compromise of relationship happens with God. There is no relationship, true relationship; fulfilling, life-giving, love sustaining relationship with out Him who made the very substance of it. He does not and did not compromise with or for us; and never will. Not because He is rigid and a rule monger. But because He is right and true and the way He made all things to be the best they can be; is truly the way all things work to be the best they can be.
The one who designed a doorknob, designed the keyhole to have a specific key to be put into it in order for it to open. It can only be opened without that specific key by breaking it. Truth is about function not performance. With peer-pressure the temptation is always to challenge the heart of God’s love, not ours. Ours means nothing if we do not get it from Him.
Let’s look at where Yeshua (Jesus) experienced peer-pressure. Remember how often he was goaded to show people a sign? Go count them! Many many times. Do we think He didn’t feel like it? Do we doubt that He was tempted to just to prove He was who He said He was? Do we think that only the “bad guys” pressured Him and not those He loved? Did He at any time give in? No. Why? Because then He would not have so loved the world and every person before and after that moment would have been utterly lost. Because to do so would have been to not love His Father first and thereby be unloving to every single person He ever knew or would know. He loved those “bad guys” and He loved those followers who thought they knew what He should do to take over the Kingdom and rule and reign, those closest to Him who were as blinded by man’s limited view as the “bad guys”. Loving God’s ways instead of ourself, our feelings, and even more than others will always be the maximum potential of Love. We follow Yeshua’s example because it will be the ultimate good for ourselves and everyone we know every time. Always.
The next time you are goaded. Young or old. Remember! True relationship, friendship and love applies God’s ways to our own thoughts and actions first like a wall around our hearts for Him. And in so doing this; He makes sure that all those around us; whether they think well or ill of us (or we be tempted to think well or ill of ourselves because of them and their influence on us) never has the power to come between us and Him.
No. Peer-pressure is never out- grown because we must always come and become as little children. Never grown up so as to graduate from any evil that can corrupt our hearts before our Lord. Children and young ones have far less to fear with their limited experience in life. We adults will battle pride harder and harder as the years go by. Because we think “we’ve got this. Know that. Understand.” The second we think we have outgrown any lesson we become ingrown and will find ourselves without excuses that come with the advantage of youth. Be grafted in, not grown up! To the glory of God!
Grace and peace in Yeshua the Messiah
The house had just emptied of the last of its guest. Ilana was in the kitchen loading the dish washer with coffee cups and cake plates. She loved that God used her home for the Thursday night women’s Bible study. She began to pray for all those that had been mentioned during the hour and a half gathering. Lorries cousin, Abby who was living in sin with her boyfriend. Gladys daughter, Cali who was using drugs. The Jensens, Kathy’s neighbors who kept harassing them about their dogs. Taliya’s husband, Andrew who she suspected was having an affair…
“Mom, what is gossip?” Twelve year old Layanah asked Ilana. She had come into the kitchen knowing her mom’s guest had left and began helping her pick up. She set a cup and plate on the counter.
Ilana was shaken from her prayers and had not quite heard the question.
“Oh, thank you Laya! I didn’t hear you come in. What was that you were saying?” Ilana reached for the cup and plate she had just set beside her.
“You’re welcome. I asked you what gossip is.” Laya said, as she sat down at the breakfast bar facing her mom’s back. The kitchen sink was across the way, a source of complaint for her mom. She was always saying she wished she could face her guest from the sink.
Ilana added soap to the dishwasher and hit start. She grabbed a towel and turned to face Laya. Her oldest daughter had that ‘I’m serious’ look to her face. Oh dear, she really wants to know what gossip is. Huh, interesting. This could take a while.
“I was just going to put water on for tea, would you like some?” Ilana asked as she grabbed the tea pot and began to fill it with water.
“Can I have hot cocoa instead?” Laya asked.
“Sure thing. You grab the marshmallows and I’ll dig out the last coffee cups.” Said Ilana. I think I have two clean ones left. Sigh. Now Lord how do I cover this topic. It’s tricky, I’ll be needing Your help.
Ilana walked around to join Laya at the bar.
“So, what brings this up, hon?” She asked.
Laya tried to gather her thoughts. This was as close to a “confrontation” as she had ever approached with her mom. She was nervous.
“Well… um… we did a big study last Sunday in class about the different ways we can gossip. Um… and I was just wondering what your definition of gossip is.” Laya worked real hard to look her mom right in the face. She was so tempted to fiddle with her fingers and look down. Why did she feel like she was doing something wrong?
“Oh… yes… I seem to remember you talking about that. Wow, well its a tricky subject. I suppose I would say is like repeating rumors.” Ilana said.
“And…what is a rumor… to you?” Laya pressed forward. Fingers fiddling in her lap.
The tea pot began to whistle.
Ilana spun to go get it. Saved by the bell! My, my I’m being put on the spot by my own daughter Lord. Guess I figured I had a couple more years. She’s only twelve. Ilana poured the water in the cups and they began to fix their drinks. She watched Laya from her peripheral vision. She really has matured lately. Why does it seem like they leave childhood sooner and sooner these days? She seems nervous. Guess I would be too. I never talked like this with my mom. Then again she was the queen of gossip. Thank You Lord that Laya is able to talk to me like this. Realizing she had gotten distracted she reviewed the last question. Rumor, oh yes. What doI think rumors are?
“It’s okay if you’re too tired to talk about this tonight mommy.” Laya was giving her mom an out. She was suddenly not sure she should question her mom this way. Besides she looks tired.
Ilana reached over and squeezed Laya’s hand.
“No, no. Really is okay hon, I’m just got distracted for a minute. My you’ve grown up lately and it just hit me.” Ilana smiled. “Rumors. Well I suppose they are things people say about other people that we don’t know for sure are true. When we hear things second hand and repeat it like it’s something we know as fact or true but really we don’t for sure.” Yeah, that should do.
“So… you think gossip could be slander too? I mean if we don’t know for sure it’s true then it could be slander? Like gossip is the actual repeating from my mouth to someone else but then if it’s really not true it then can be slander?” Laya played with the marshmallows in her cup. Guess I’m not going to keep my promise to keep looking at mom while I talk. Geez this is hard.
The series of questions stumped Ilana. The boldness her baby girl was displaying and grown up thinking was volleying for her thoughts. Achem, focus Lana! Gossip, slander. Oh yeah! Maybe something happened at school?
“Well yes, I do think slander and gossip can go hand in hand dear. It depends on the situation. Has something happened at school? What had made you think so deeply about this? You seem upset. Anything I can do to help?” Again Ilana reached for Laya’s hand.
Laya froze. Now she would have to say why she was asking straight up. She loved her mom and knew her mom loved her. The test of love is risk. That’s what Mrs. Taylor said Sunday. When you see inconsistencies in those you love, it test your true love to point them out. Mrs. Taylor’s words rang in her head. Okay, here I go.
“Momma, I was bored while your study was going. So I sat at the top of the stairs and listened. I’m not sure that was right or wrong. I’m sorry if it was wrong. But when you all started to talk about prayer request I began to feel uncomfortable. Cause it seemed to me that much of the stuff people shared sounded like gossip. And if only from what some may think is going on with someone else but they don’t know for sure it could be slander. I have also felt funny at school the last few days too. It seems like all anybody really does is gossip. I’m not trying to judge people really. I’m just trying to work on not gossiping myself. Or at least that’s why I’m thinking so deep about it. Jesus said we have to do what the Bible says not just learn it with our heads.
So anyways… on Sunday when we were done talking about all the different kinds of gossip we got to talking about how to work on it with our own selves and how to help others we love too. Momma sometimes I think adults gossip alot and slander too but they call it prayer request time.” Laya took a deep breath and slowly raised her eyes to look at her mom. She felt really hot. Maybe too much cocoa. Jesus if my heart is wrong please show me! Her mom seemed shocked. Not mad though. Whew!
Ilana was stunned. Who is this girl sitting across from me tonight, Lord? She thought back to the prayer request time from the study. Reviewing the words exchanged again, but from a different perspective now. Her daughter was shining a light and it was hard to ignore. Oh my dear Lord Jesus! It was more gossip than anything! And yes, yes it could very well be as much slander as gossip too. Several of the ladies even admitted they didn’t know for sure about some of the stuff they said! And I was praying for them too!
The silence hung in the air thick. And became more uncomfortable by the second for both. Layanah felt like shrinking into the stool she sat in and shifted around. She tried to read her mom’s face but it was set in her own thoughts without much to go on. She was about to apologize and say forget it, a mistake, and swear she’d never eaves drop on her mom’s Bible study again. Then her mom cleared her throat.
“Laya, do you still have the papers from your Sunday class?” Ilana asked looking at her with what seemed like genuine interest.
“Yes.” Was all Laya could muster to her lips.
“Would you go get them right now. I’d like to look at them.” Her mom asked. Immediately Laya felt defensive.
“It’s not bad stuff momma. Really.” Laya looked as if she might burst into tears.
Ilana pulled Laya into a hug.
“Oh dear Laya, you’re not in trouble! You didn’t do anything wrong. I want you to go get it because it seems your momma is needing the lesson as badly as anyone else now. You are right about what you said dear one.” Ilana pulled Laya’s face up to look directly into her eyes. “You did very well in talking to me Laya. Don’t you dare think I’m angry with you okay?” Ilana again pulled her close and hugged her tight.
Laya’s relief was like a rush of warm air on a cold night. She wrapped her arms around her mom. Thank You God! Thank You! Oh I was so unsure of myself – so scared. But Mrs. Taylor was right!
“Now then,” Ilana said, “run and go get those papers okay? And together we’ll go over them and together we’ll encourage and help each other do what the Bible says not just learn it, eh?” Ilana smiled. Oh Lord God, this is new territory. I’m learning from this young lady You have given to me tonight! Thank You for making her brave to speak up to me. Thank You for showing me my own weakness with such love through her. Please never let me ever be too old or too much her elder to not really listen and learn from her too. Help us both honor You dear Lord!
Layanah jumped down and went to go get the papers from her class on Sunday. A smile that went from her heart to each cheek on her face wrote the moment in ink on her soul.
Ilana grabbed their cups and moved to the living room where they would be more comfortable. It seemed the Bible study was not over tonight. Perhaps this one was the only one that would really happen tonight. She too smiled from heart to face… looking forward to the days ahead where it seemed now her baby girl was becoming a young woman and they would grow more and more into friends in the Lord too!
Grace and peace in Yeshua the Messiah
Daddy, what is pride?” Seven year old Daniel looked up at his Dad as they walked towards the front door of their house.
“Huuummm, what a question. Pride. Let me find words to answer, Danny.” Daniels father answered while unlocking the door and opening it. He ushered the boy inside and flipped the light on. They began to remove their shoes and coats in the foyer.
Daniels Dad, Walter began trying to find words to fit a description of pride in his mind. Trying to fit the words of a thirty eight year old into a seven year old response. Not succeeding well.
“Why don’t you go get ready for bed and I’ll be in to answer your question and tuck you in shortly, son. Looks like your Mama is already asleep, I will kiss her for you tonight okay?” Walter bent down in front of Daniel and took the end of his coat sleeve and helped him pull it off and reached up to hang it on the hook.
Daniel nodded and turned to go obey his daddy.
Walter walked into the kitchen to get a glass of water. Still struggling to know how to frame an answer to his sons question.
Clareese would know what to say. Why do I get such a loaded question and she’s in bed? Thought Walter as he drank. What is pride? He repeated. So large a scope and such a simple question. He began to try to think of ways to put Danny off with an answer. He felt the weight of giving the correct answer to such a tempest of a concept. It was important Danny know, but how much could he truly understand at such a young age? Walter began trying to remember what ‘pride looks like at the tender age of seven’. This made it easier. Yes, that’s what he would do, talk about seven year old pride. Yet the more he began to formulate his thoughts around the plan he made the less he felt it gave a complete answer. Frustrated he placed his glass in the sink and went to check on Sadey, his four year old daughter. She had been home sick today and required Clareese’s full attention. Strep throat was making rounds early this year, Sadey had a bad case of it. High fevers, aches and unable to eat much she cried and spent a good deal of the day in a warm bath which helped the aches but did little for the fever. Even ice cream didn’t sooth her throat. Clareese had told him and had went to bed with a sore throat herself before he and Daniel had left for Tuesday night service at Solid Rock Church where they attended for five years now.
He slipped quietly into Sadey’s bedroom and was overwhelmed by the smell of vicks coming from the humidifier by her bed. He bend down to touch her forehead and felt the radiance of her fever before he touched it. Walter sighed and said a quick prayer for his daughter and kissed her softly. He left and made his way towards his bedroom. Passing Danny’s room he peaked in to see him pulling on his pajama bottoms. He smiled, Danny was a good boy.
As he entered his bedroom he let his eyes adjust to the darkness so as not to wake Clareese as he undressed and donned his own pj’s. Clareese stirred slightly but didn’t awaken. He repeated the action of reaching for her forehead as he had Sadey. Again he felt the fever before he connected to her skin.
Oh, Lord, you know I don’t do nurse well and Clareese is needed to tend with a mother’s touch our Sadey right now. Please don’t let her get too sick to be able to care for her.
Immediately Walter felt a pang of guilt. His wife was sick and he was praying, not for her health and healing but for… huh. .. oh dear… his pride?
Forgive me Lord, help me to trust You’ll provide. I can call my mom if needed. I truly just want my family to be healthy again.
He pulled the covers up over Clareese’s shoulder and turned to go say goodnight to Danny.
I’m too tired to go into this pride thing tonight. I’ll tell him we’ll talk about it tomorrow. Mommy’s sick and we may need to be extra helpful. Yes, this is what he’d say. Then he would talk to Clareese and she would help him know what to say.
Daniel was sitting up in his bed playing with his transformer action figure, Bee, when he entered the room. Danny smiled at his dad and placed the toy on his nightstand and sat up straighter as if he was ready to hear his answer to his question. Guilt again took a stab at Walter’s heart.
How can I disappoint him so? Lord what in Heaven’s name do I say?
“So… pride huh? What makes you ask about that Danny?” Walter asked.
“Mrs. Cramer gave us a scripture to memorize tonight. And I already know it by heart!” Danny beamed. “Pride goeth before a fall. Proverbs 16:18” Danny said carefully with his eyes closed. Then his face scrunched up and he opened his eyes. “What is pride Daddy? How does it go before someone falls? Is it like tripping someone with your leg and then they fall?”
The innocence of his sons mind struck Walter with a wave of relief and gladness. Ahhhh, to think so simply and with physical example! He gave a chuckle and sat on the bed facing Danny.
“Well, son is kind of like that. But pride isn’t like a person with legs.” He said.
“Well I got confused because Mama is always telling me she’s proud of me. What if she falls because of that?” Danny’s genuine concern for his mama showed clearly in is eyes.
Oh Lord from out of the frying pan into the fire! The answer is both yes and no! How am I going to do this?!
Walter took a deep breath.
“Well Danny when mommy says she’s proud of you she’s really saying she’s happy because you make her happy. It’s a grown up way of saying ‘you’re great stuff!’ Sometimes we adults forget that lots of words can mean different things. So don’t worry about mommy falling, k?” It was an indirect answer to the point but it was all Walter had. He wanted first to relieve Danny’s fear of making his mom fall.
Danny sat waiting for his Dad to go on. Relief registering on his little face so far.
“The pride that the Word of God is talking about is like a reaction to stuff. Like when someone hurts your feelings and inside,” Walter placed his hand over Danny’s heart, “inside here and here”,Walter touched Danny’s head. “We react sometimes in different ways, do you understand what I mean?” Walter sent up a prayer that Danny was following along.
“Yes. It’s like having mean thoughts because someone said a mean thing first, right?” Danny looked at his Dad searching for affirmation.
“Yes! Yes exactly like that son. When we react like that inside we have a choice to act on the mean thoughts and say them or do them or not to. Jesus promised us we would always have a choice. It’s hard not to be mean when someone is mean to us, huh?” Walter began to feel as though this wasn’t going to be as hard as he thought.
“Yeah, Paul is mean and makes me want to be mean back. But I remember what mama says, ‘Do good to those who are mean to you. This is what Jesus helps you do.’ She has to help me think of good things though cause my mean thoughts talk loud Daddy. Does that mean I have the pride that makes me fall?” Tears began to form in Danny’s brown eyes and it broke Walter’s heart.
Walker reached for his son and pulled him into his lap. Folding him in his arms as if he could protect him from pride.
“We all have that pride dear boy. All of us. That is why we remember that scripture… like a warning that helps us choose what Jesus promised He would give. Cause when we are mean back to meanness usually it just makes more meanness, huh?” Walter said as he held Danny close. He looked down into Danny’s face to wait for him to respond.
Danny shook his head ‘yes’, but remained quiet.
“Well see the fall that the Bible is talking about is that meanness. Because now meanness is in control, it has made you do mean things and the other person do mean things and it just keeps meanness going back and forth. When we sin, we fall short of what God wants for us and for those we effect. So that’s the fall that happens when we choose our pride. Pride being our way of reacting and thinking and doing things. If we choose while we are first reacting inside our hearts and in our thinking, to be good to meanness then we don’t fall or cause others to fall into more meanness too. Does that make sense Danny?” Walter again sent up a prayer that God would help his little boy understand what he was saying.
“Yes, Daddy, I understand. It’s really hard though. Is it hard for you too?” Danny pulled back to look at Walter’s face.
“Yes, yes my boy is very hard for me too. In fact is not easy for anyone. We always have to work hard at that because pride never really goes away. Jesus gives us a way to not fall over it but until He comes back and we live with Him forever we will have to work really hard at keeping pride from making us fall. It’s like brushing your teeth. They may always seem fine and white but if we don’t brush everyday we’ll get cavities. So brushing your teeth is like keeping pride from decaying them. It’s easy to just say ‘one night won’t hurt if I skip’ but pride lies to us and if we let one night go then the next one will be easier.” Walter wasn’t sure the comparison was all that great but it’s what came to mind.
“Oh.” Said Danny. Shifting in his lap. “I guess that means I should go brush my teeth. I’m sorry I tried to skip it Dad.”
Danny got up to go into the restroom and began to brush his teeth. Walter sat there wondering if he should say more. And amazed how God had him covered in so many ways. Danny came back and crawled into bed and laid down to go to sleep.
“I will try really hard not to let pride rot my teeth or my heart for Jesus Dad. I’m glad He gave us a way not to fall. I’m tired. Goodnight Daddy. I love you.” Danny sat up to wrap his arms around Walter’s shoulders, hugging him tight. “Thank you for talking to me tonight Daddy, I know you get tired at night real bad. Mommy says so. I’m glad not too be confused about pride so much. It helps me know why I memorize the Bible. God’s words brush my heart like the tooth brush does my teeth, huh?” Danny said in Walter’s ear before he laid down on his pillow.
Walter smiled. What an amazing gift his boy was! “Yes, son. God’s word is just exactly like that! Thank you for reminding me! Good night. Sleep well. Love you son.” Walter kissed Danny on the forehead and walked out to go to bed.
God, thank you for teaching me about pride tonight. Through my little boy Danny.
Grace and peace in Yeshua the Messiah