I remember sitting in youth group listening to a youth pastor reprimand the general exodus of young girls venturing into the Twilight movies so ecstatic and giddy to see whats-his-name with his shirt off. He wasn't speaking against the people but the act, the "lust"- the sin behind it. As I look back I remember many a similar talks given.
I remember being passionately dissuaded from seeing certain movies, listening to music that wasn't labeled as "Christian" or "worship", for saying certain words, and for various other assumed thoughts and inclinations; to the point of beliving it to be a sin to do so. I remember also feeling shamed for not doing certain things; for not reading my Bible enough, for not memorizing enough of it, for not evangelizing enough, discipling enough, being descipled enough...
Looking back I find so much emphasis put on my actions, be it what I was doing or what I was abstaining from. But we look to the actions to tell us about the heart don't we? Just as we look to the fruit to inform us about the tree. And as a leader, how else are you supposed to measure and asses the "spiritual health" of your young congregation? Emphasizing censorship, boundaries, and rules while promoting activities to do within that given framework is certainly one way of doing it and it's certainly a favored way, but I wish there had been another way offered...not just to me but to all of us, students and leaders alike. And besides, any farmer will tell you that it's not the fruit that you farm, but the soil; for if you have good soil, good fruit will naturally follow.
We were told over and over again what to do and what not to do, but we were never told why. Why should we do this? Why shouldn't we do that? Perhaps "why" seemed like too big a question for such immature minds and hearts to tackle or unravel. But if you ask "Why?" enough you can trace it all the way to the heart of the matter and find with it the true, unadulterated, captivating reasons that inspire and motivate an obedience driven by a personal understanding (a revelation); either that or you'll find reasons to abandon the commands and obligations presented to you- there too lie revelations, truth, and obedience.
But now I want to know, why was it such a big deal that the girls were giddy over a boy's shirtless body? Is that really the bigger issue? Is that really what the minds and hearts of youth need to understand? Is that such a fundamental issue that you would rather spend your efforts battling against that "lust" you see rather than spend your efforts making sure they fully knew they were loved and accepted despite it all?
Why was behavior prioritized over belonging?
Or is it for the youth to behave so that they may belong as adults? Because that is most definitely the message I felt on the receiving end: Let the youth learn how to behave so that when they are adults they will then belong because they know how to behave. But by then the rules have grown so numerous, the restrictions and the duties so many, that you can barely see the God to Whom you belong; if, by then, you still want Him at all.
And so as adults we must spend many a seasons unlearning and deconstructing our fortress, until we can see Him again. And then we must spend many a seasons more learning freedom and grace, love and acceptance perhaps for the first time. We must spend all this time being liberated from the former enforced necessity of performance to finally believe in and trust in a great belonging so freely given.
Why, at our most impressionable state, were we trained for works instead of being molded by grace?
I think maybe many were/are afraid that grace wouldn't get us to where we needed to be. I think many doubted/doubt the strength and ability of grace to shape and mold acceptable Christians out of young wandering souls. But if not grace then what? What, if not grace, binds our wandering hearts to Him? What, if not grace, invites us, strengthens us, compels us, sustains us, nurtures us, and even carries us in this life and living it?
So much time spent instructing a sappling on the fruit it must grow instead of making sure it had everything it needed to grow; that while simply being and receiving the good things laid out for its health and nourishment, it may naturally grow into a thriving living tree.
Why is the evidence of performance a trusted remedy and grace a mystic potion? Love and grace have the power to change all if only we would be allowed to soak in it. If only we trusted it enough to be raised in it.