“Don’t take one more step, young man!” Butterflies flooded my belly and I felt dizzy at the sight of my six-year-old son nearing the edge of a cliff. I’d invested way too much time and love into the child to have to make a new one. I ducked down and quickly worked my way through the cave to grab his belt loop and pull him back to me. “Stay close!”
“But mom, I’m fine,” he protested, as he proceeded to crawl up a boulder and scan the gorgeous view of mountaintops and valleys. I loved his adventurous spirit then, and I still love it today, but keeping him safe through childhood was certainly a full-time job, and not always a job I wanted.
Our vacation weekend was supposed to be a relaxing getaway for the family. As it turns out, Turner Falls is nestled in the Wichita Mountains. In addition to cliffs and caves, the park features gorgeous waterfalls (for falling from), pools of cool, blue water (to drown in), and a ton of campers (stranger danger). Hundreds of steep stairs lead to all kinds of adventure sites for a little boy and girl: it’s a parent’s worst nightmare.
My husband and I employed man-to-kid coverage and hoped for the best. Of course, he was managing the girl, who loved to stick with Daddy and please him. I was burdened with the physically and mentally stressful assignment of supervising our son. In other words, I was trying to tame a monkey in his natural habitat. Honestly, the boy must have a whole regiment of guardian angels. But God is good, and nearly 20 years later, both of our children are alive and well.
The Rule of Close and Far
When my son neared the edge of that cliff, he had purposefully gone his own way, farther and farther from the safety of this momma’s strong arms. He was exploring, and rightfully so. This world is chock full of great wonders to experience. I understand the allure of the unknown all too well. Moving farther from me, however, led him closer to danger.
Isn’t that the way of life? As children of God, when we move away from Jesus, we move closer to danger, and it’s so enticing. Oftentimes, we don’t initially realize we’re moving away from God because the allure of the danger is mesmerizing.
This is true in our finances, with our friend groups, and with entertainment. I skip a few days of morning devotionals or a few Sundays at church, and then I neglect to resume the routine. I go out with friends and drink one too many margaritas. I watch that Netflix show that pricks my conscience, instead of looking for something more wholesome. I flirt with the cute coworker. Eat too much cake. Spend more money than I should.
All the little ways that you and I move away from God’s goodness lead us nearer and nearer to danger, to sin.
No one is perfect, and no one is immune to the interesting glow of sin.
Our God appreciates discipline. He counts righteousness as honorable and knows that we must work diligently to outsmart the prowling, ravenous lion (1 Peter 5:8) who can smell our interest in sin. It is human nature to go our own way. God created us with a curious spirit, some more than others to be sure. He also made many of us independent by nature, but asks us to depend upon him.
When I try to bend my will toward Jesus’, when I’m not living each hour near him, it’s impossible. By “near him,” I mean that the Holy Spirit is present and speaking to me, and I’m heeding the warnings. Jesus said, “Abide in me and I in you (John 15:4).” The word “abide” means, according to Webster’s, accept without objection and remain fixed. The full verse is: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” So, we are to be part of Jesus so that he can fuel us every moment, as a vine provides sustenance for its own branches so that they can thrive. When a branch is pruned from a vine, it withers and dies. So it is with sin. When we remove ourselves from Christ, the Holy Spirit can no longer fuel us, and we wither and die to sin. In short, Christians need Christ. There’s no room in my heart for sin, when Jesus is there.
When I gave up my own will and decided to follow God’s will, my human conscience was overtaken by the Holy Spirit. Now, Jesus lives in me and – this is important – if I allow him to, he will lead me toward righteousness instead of sin. I have to want him to, and I have to keep that want-to active. The moment I stop obeying the Holy Spirit’s counsel, I start to wander off, going my own way, instead of God’s good way. As my wandering becomes more frequent, I move farther from Christ and closer to sin. The nudging of the Holy Spirit within me, that voice that shouts, “Hey, wait a minute. You aren’t supposed to be doing this. Remember Jesus?” … that voice becomes more of a whisper.
It’s always me that strays, not Jesus. God is unchanging. The bible tells us, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you (James 4:8).” What do you think happens when we pull away from God? You might think that he pulls away from us. That’s not true. Just as I pursued my son in that cave, Jesus will leave 99 sheep to seek out just one (Matt. 18:12).
I have been the one sheep, and so have you.
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