Ever since my husband and I were married, we have had a heart for teens. We have loved being involved in youth ministry for many years and have even more of a vested interest now that we live with our own teenagers. For both of us personally, the high school years were the pivotal time for our spiritual development. As parents, we pray for opportunities to come alongside our kids and love the kids that they bring home with them. It is our hope to be the kind of lights that God used in our lives when we were young.
I grew up in a stable, traditional, non-Christian home, and until my parents enrolled me in a Christian school in 5th grade (to avoid being bussed to downtown Los Angeles), I had never heard answers to all of the nagging questions and fears that plagued me. The Bible classes helped me formulate some of those answers and were comforting, but it was not until high school that God really got a hold of my heart.
It was then that I met a group of people who were different than any I had ever known. This is not to say that there were no true believers at my Christian school, but I was a scoffer and my heart hardened at the hypocrisy that can be seen in that kind of environment. It was not until I was away at a Christian camp that I really felt confronted by the truth of who Christ is. The Christian coaches there impacted me most. Specifically, they were uninhibited, both in their ability to love each other and me. They were so free to express this love and care, and—as a kid who had literally never said I was “sorry” to anyone before—this blew me away.
I wanted to know what made them so different, so loving, so fun, so free-spirited. All of their testimonies included imperfect pasts, most far worse than anything that I had experienced. But they were joyful. They were the living testimony of Ephesians 4:22, “that in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in the righteousness and holiness of the truth”.
These women who I encountered had indeed been set free from the “old self” and were now living out the transformation that I longed for. It was here that I realized my path was not set in stone by my family, my reputation or even my tendencies and temperament. I had a new hope in Christ. With God, those things and their restraints were “passed away”. Of course, I still fight daily with the patterns and responses of my dead self, but they cannot hold me or define me. The “new” me was created in the righteousness and holiness of God.
This is a gospel truth that I cling to when I find myself stuck in the ditch of my old ways, and this is the gospel hope that I love to see lived out in others. I love to see new believers, especially high- schoolers, come to the realization that nothing needs to define or inhibit them when they have Christ in their hearts. And as an old believer, I love that I can continue to be Spirit-morphed into the likeness of my Savior. One of my favorite pastors says it this way, “When a person becomes a Christian, God gives him a completely new spiritual and moral capability that a mind apart from Christ could never achieve.”