That's a big deal for a teenager. Accepted.
For me, I wanted to be liked. I wanted to be noticed and I wanted to feel included. There is nothing worse, for an extrovert, than to be excluded or set aside as an outcast. I wanted these other kids to be my friend and accept me. I wanted into their club. It looked fun. Other teens seem to respect it and take notice. These were the teens who were confident and social. They were the ones who got invited to everything and the whole school knew about their social and love life.
I wanted that. I had a choice to make.
Something that contributed to the dilemma was I grew up going to church. I believed that God was real. I believed that Jesus died on the cross for my sins. I believed that we were suppose to do good and I knew the difference between right and wrong. In my teenage mind, there had to be a gray area. I convinced myself that. I had a choice to make. So, I compromised. I figured, I could straddle the bridge.
Just picture with me here for a moment - the straight and narrow path with a fence going down each side. While I didn't want to stray from the path, I wanted to make choices that made me feel accepted. I justified, "I'm not denying there is a God. And I'm not disbelieving. I'm just going to make this choice, ask for forgiveness on Sunday and everything will be okay." I made the choice. I comprised. I convinced myself and I believed it. We do this a lot, even into our grown up years.
It's nice to feel accepted, isn't it? I don't care if you are an introvert or an extrovert. It's nice to know people like and appreciate us. And so, we are met with these choices just about everyday. Here are some examples of choices I am met with often (maybe you are too):
Do I honk and swerve in front of the driver who is going 10 miles under the speed limit, all while thinking unkind thoughts OR Do I simply breathe a huge sigh, ask God for patience and just keep driving?
Do I stare at my time card and think, "Adding one extra minute isn't going to hurt anyone" OR Do I show integrity and honesty in recording my work hours?
Do I join in on a Facebook conversation that includes male genitalia and crass discussion... hey... I giggled, it was kind of funny OR do I move on and choose not to because God has commanded me to watch my tongue and be an example?
Do I gossip and slander OR do I respect a person's privacy, resist the urge to judge and focus on my own life journey?
As I flip channels, on the TV, do I stay on the one that shows people engaging in less than stellar activity OR do I keep flipping or better yet, just turn it off and grab my Bible or devotional?
Choices... we are met with them every single day. No matter what life stage you are at, we have choices to make. I cannot think of any woman, as a better example, than that of Eve.
We all know her story. The first woman on earth. Perfect, made in the image of God and enjoying His creation. Until, a choice - one that would forever change how this world would come to be. She had a choice, to remember how God created her and what His command was regarding the Tree of Knowledge or fall victim to this serpent who seemed to have all the answers. She knew it was against the rules but, it sounded so good. Having that knowledge, well, would it make her more accepted and revered? She would have the same knowledge as her Creator. How cool!
We all know her fate. Our fate. She chose to eat. Unfortunately, her choice impacted so many more than just herself. It affected her husband, as well as, all of her descendants.
Sometimes, our choices affect a multitude as well. It's not just us. Having that bigger picture, brings on a whole new perspective when it comes to compromise and being accepted. It has now caused me to pray fervently and to listen to that still, small voice.
As I have grown in my faith, it has become easier to distinguish the bad choice and the good choice. Life experience has given me new eyes to see those moments when, I listened to God and obeyed. I'm thankful for those experiences because, I can remember the peace and eternal acceptance from my Heavenly Father.
Let me tell you something, that eternal acceptance? Well, it far outweighs the earthly acceptance from my fellow human beings. Let's just take a look at the difference between eternal and earthly acceptance, shall we?
Earthly acceptance: It's temporary. It corrupts your character. You will never be satisfied. It's sin. It opens the door to guilt.
Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." 1 Corinthians 15:33
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James 4:17 (ESV)
Eternal acceptance: It's eternal. It gives life. It's builds character and strengthens discernment. It opens the door to peace, comfort and assurance.
Be attentive to my words...for they are life to those who find them...Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil. Proverbs 4:20, 22, 25-27
And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." Luke 10:27
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
Are you convinced yet? I sure am.
Compromise is part of all of our stories.
I bet, if we were sitting down in a circle, sipping our coffee or whatever it is you like to sip, we all would have a story about compromise. We would tell stories of our teen years and giggle. I mean, what were we thinking back then? (We were so naive!) I imagine, a solemness would fall over the group, as we realize, those same habits of compromise, are still part of us. We would begin to share moments at home or in the workplace, of moments we were tempted - and may have even made the wrong choice. A hand would reach out to another and heads would nod. Sighs would go all around and then, someone would remind us of God's forgiveness. They would mention something about how wonderful it is to serve a God who knows how broken we are and in need of a Savior. Another would mention it's time to pray so, cups would be set down, hands would be joined and voices would be raised to the King of Kings. We would ask for forgiveness and guidance. We would thank Him for His unconditional love and ask for the strength only He can give, when met with those choices. We would acknowledge that we must try, with all of our heart, to not compromise our faith and be bold and firm in what we believe. And we would declare, in that moment, to support one another in this.
Someone would say Amen. Maybe a tissue would be handed out. Embraces would be given and we would go on with our day or evening. Can you picture that? Can you relate? Know that you are not alone! Believe me! We've all been there and can support one another in this journey.
I'm going to steal a prayer that was placed in my Sermon Notes from my church one weekend. It's such a good one! Pray it this week. Each morning, in fact! I've been doing it and, let me tell you, God hears our prayers. He will do what He desires to do through us. And when it aligns with His holy word and unique plan for each of our lives, He answers and is there.
Lord, I want to live a life of integrity. A life where I don't swerve to the right or to the left, but rather keeping my eyes firmly fixed on you and on doing what's right. Reveal any areas of my life where compromise has taken hold of my heart so that I may live a life wholly devoted to you. Amen.