This is an "open letter" to any kid old enough to try to philosophically subvert the discipline of his/her parents in order to follow the crowd.
Dear Big Kid,
You may or may not understand everything that you read here. If you don’t get all now, let it be a seed that gets planted in you for later.
You have heard it said, “Just say no to drugs” and "Save sex for marriage". But I tell you that by the time someone is saying yes to drugs and yes to pre-marital sex, they have already been addicted to something else: the approval of destructive people. Seeking the approval of destructive people is as much a drug as any drug and as much a religion as any religion.
You were born with a sense that life is precious and that the future has hope for a better day. It is the sense that is entrusted by God for you to keep your whole life. It is that aspect of being “like a child” that God calls all of us to be like. This sense is your innocence, which gives you the capacity to experience joy and hope. It is this innocence that will take effort to maintain.
Joy is the union of pleasure and purpose, the union of pleasure and truth, and the union of pleasure and meaningful relationships. There is joyful pleasure and there is joyless pleasure. Both are pleasing but one feels different than the other. When we allow ourselves to experience enough joyless pleasure the experience is stamped into us to the point where we can actually forget what joy is/feels like. To use food as an example, food that is good for you will be good going in and going through. Junk food will only feel good going in. As with food and any other pleasure, God invites us into a journey where pleasure and meaning are always wedded together.
To live a healthy life you must expand your idea of what a "drug" is: a "drug" is any use of pleasure for the sake of pleasure that is removed from any purpose. A drug is anything that is used in an attempt to artificially squeeze pleasure sensations out of life. Food can be a drug, sexual pleasure can be a drug. Approval from bad people is a drug. Even wanting too much approval from good people can be a drug.
An idol is a created thing that we worship instead of worshipping the Creator. An idolatry is the practice of worshipping an idol. Many people believe that since they are not bowing to Tiki gods carved in stone they are not participating in idolatry. But think again. Finding pleasure in a drug – in any form – as an "emotional idolatry" because it is a source other than God which one gives allegiance to and seeks emotional comfort from.
Most people do not move forward into "emotional idolatries" by joining the weekly Idol worship and reading the five points of Idol doctrine. Rather, they walk backwards into the comfort that a created thing/being seems to provide in place of finding joy in God and His purposes. People participate in "emotional idolatry" whenever they separate pleasure from purpose.
Character is the ability to forgo a lesser pleasure of the present to gain a greater pleasure in the future. Wisdom is truth met with experience. Wisdom is truth that can be felt, tasted and pieced together in your mind, that can be seen three dimensions. A vision is that wisdom that paints a bright picture of the future.
A temptation is a crisis of wisdom and exposes a poverty of your wisdom and vision. When the truth is only a "finger wagging" in your head it’s not enough to keep you from doing something you shouldn’t do. When you are tempted to do something that you shouldn't do, you need to recognize that your temptation is a poverty of your vision and your wisdom.
Seeing truth as a finger wagging in your head is like seeing one face of a cube that thus only looks like a square. Ask God for the vision. God promises to give us wisdom when we ask. When you know what joy feels like, tastes like and when you know the difference from joyless pleasure you will have the heart to receive God's vision. When you grow in God's wisdom and vision for your life, you will know the truth in all of its dimensions so that it is impressed on your neurons with enough force to counteract the call to joyless pleasures.
This quality of wanting to know the truth is a 'godly curiosity"; it is an act of seeking wisdom that God promises to reward. It is this quality of godly curiosity, where one wants to know the whole of God's truth while in the mean time having the faith and discipline to be faithful to what you do already know. God requires us to have the discipline, faith and shrewdness to wait for a fuller picture as we are faithful with the truth he as given us.
When your parents hem you in and inhibit your 'freedom", you are being hemmed so you don't do something destructive to yourself before you have the capacity to exercise "godly curiosity" with the right mix of innocence and shrewdness. When you become fully adult you will be able to operate with godly curiosity on your own and you will be able to handle the freedom. For a season of time and within certain boundaries, your parents must be "shrewd" for you.
That part of us that is innocent wishes to be led through the sometimes dark and confusing and dangerous aspects of life. A true leader seeks to lead as a representative of God on earth. A true leader protects the innocence of others, while a false leader cares not about innocence.
If we are not conscious of protecting our innocence, we can be fooled into giving allegiance to fake leadership. You can be fooled into seeking glory, safety, companionship and approval in destructive people. Navigating life will take innocence and shrewdness to deal with people who would trick you out of it. These people would try to get you to make your allegiance to them more important than maintaining your innocence for your long term journey with God.
There is a dangerous and risky aspect to life, and there is a certain "creative destruction" that is needed to make hard, costly decisions to manage the innocence of ourselves and others. As you follow Gods call you will be called to take risks at God appointed times. You will be called to make complex decisions in life decisions between good, better and best or between bad and worse. One can only be a good leader on complex matters when one is long apprenticed in keeping one's innocence in simpler matters.
It is in being curious in a godly way that one gains the wisdom to lead oneself and others. It is in being curious in a godly way that one maintains one's innocence by being shrewd. When you walk with God, maintaining your innocence, you will face dangers correctly and earn the respect and admiration of people. You will be equipped to lead them as a godly leader, and you will lead people in Godly ways and have healthy relationships.
A destructive person who is not able or willing to walk with God enjoys making sure that other people know that they are acquainted with danger and moral complexity. This tricks those who are innocent into thinking that this person is capable of being a leader to their innocence, so that those more innocent than himself will be fooled into giving him respect and admiration and allegiance. It is these fake leaders who give away their innocence in exchange for being dangerous enough to command the respect of foolish people. These false leaders want to command more respect and admiration than is merited by their wisdom.
These false leaders have given up the conscious management of their innocence/their joy in order to avoid being lonely and unsafe. This is true even as they are still driven by fundamental elements of innocence that they are managing wrongly. For these people, the sense of innocence has gone from something that they once enjoyed and recognized within them to something that their conscious mind has forgotten while a deeper part of their selves still needs.
Having forgotten the true nature of their own innocence, these people will try to trick you into thinking that the good "childlike" qualities of your innocence are "gay" "childish" "un-hip" "fake" or any number of adjectives. These people are simply angry at you for reminding them of the part innocence that they have given up and want to soothe their own consciences. They are taking the wagging finger away from themselves and pointing it at you. Do not fall for this.
God holds us accountable to manage our innocence correctly to forge a relationship with Him. God allows us the room to stumble as we are earnestly seeking. When you are given the choice to give up your innocence for the approval and safety of others it is in this moment that you must seek to know God more deeply. You must seek His wisdom and His vision and seek a relationship with a God who fills your heart with joy. Here you will enjoy God's "full course meal" and not be the one who gets filled with the "junkfood" of the present.
We live in an age of disposable pleasure, pleasures that are not part of a journey of our Godly purpose. Disposable pleasure, emotional idolatry, emotional junkfood are things that you will be pressured to take part in at every turn. You will be pressured by your peers so that you can be "dangerous" and "cool" enough not to be lonely and outcast and considered "babyish". This is the religion of "cool" that you must watch out for and not bow to, even if you are persecuted by your peers.
You need to know that much of today's media and the technology is largely programmed to hook you into a realm of disposable pleasure and emotional idolatry. This does not necessarily mean to cloister yourself and to always avoid all media and technology. Rather, it means to think critically and to do nothing without first asking whether it will injure your innocence. Always walk forwards into things, never backwards. All those who put their desire to be safe and un-lonely before their call to seek God will embrace these things without thinking. They will be those who take the path to destruction that is wide and broad by walking backwards.
People will justify the world and its pleasures for many reasons, including that it "sells". You need to have a value system that is higher than finding safety in crowds and making money. It is God who will make that journey possible and who will provide for your needs as you seek him. This is the test of every person. Every person must walk through a valley of aloneness and be proved worthy of not giving up their innocence in the face of pressure. –