Last weekend, I left my two bitty girls to hang with some bigger girls. I attended our church’s junior high/high school girls’ purity retreat. I haven’t had so many meaningful, one on one conversations with teenage girls since I was also their age. And my heart was broken by this one pervasive theme in the hearts of adolescent Christian girls:
They feel burdened.
Burdened by their sins.
By the rules they feel unable to follow.
By the life they feel called – but not empowered – to lead.
By guilt that the things of this world, (“normal teenage things”), are often more appealing than the version of gospel we are selling them.
And my heart broke, because the “burden” that Christ lays on His followers is, in His words, light. Sure, purity is a hefty thing. Imitating Christ is a high and serious calling. But there should be no pressure because living a holy life is something that we cannot do, but instead Christ does in us. We are free to admit our inability and rest in the One who is able!
It is ironic that the number one emotion I heard from these girls was a burden regarding their sinful nature. Why is it ironic? Because the emotion that was a very close runner-up to their brokenness about sin was this: They feel totally fine. They feel like good kids. Sure, they know they could “follow the rules” a little better, but all in all, they feel at least partially righteous.
It’s a tough combination.
It’s the human condition.
We all know the feeling… the bending under the pressure of all we “ought” and “ought not” to do in life. And we also know how, at the end of the day, we shrug off mistakes and feel pretty good about ourselves. After all, we can’t be perfect, right?
We mistakenly feel that we can attribute SOME righteousness to ourselves, and so we miss the gaping need we have for Christ to be our ONLY hope of righteousness.
Because He is the only righteousness we can ever have.
By calling ourselves “pretty good”, we lie about how sinful we truly are, we diminish our need for Jesus to be our righteousness, and we heap on ourselves the impossible burden of creating our own Christ-like righteousness.
We turn life into a list of rules.
We make Christianity an issue of morality rather than a passionate, transformative relationship with our Savior.
But how do we explain this to young girls?
At this weekend’s retreat, a couple of highschoolers were lamenting over various struggles they have with peer pressure and sin. I asked them this question, “How does Jesus help you in these struggles?”
They had no idea how to answer.
I’ve been there.
I remember being a wayward Christian in college, desperate to be saved from my habitual backsliding. I sat HUNGRY in a Christian conference, tears streaming, begging for answers. Again and again the speakers said, “Give it to God.” I squirmed in my seat and thought, “HOW do you give it to God!?!? Here, God! Take it! Fix it! I don’t know what the action is that enables me to GIVE my wickedness to God!!”
Like the young girls at this weekend’s retreat, I understood what Jesus required of me, but not how He could empower me to live that life. The result was immense burden.
Like the speakers at the conference that I desparately cried through years ago, the ONLY advice I know for these burdened girls is “give it to God.”
I can’t explain to you how it works…
…how the Holy Spirit moves in and takes over…
…how RELATIONSHIP with a sweet Savior becomes the point ,while the “oughts” and “ought nots” move to the background – even while you’re accidentally living a life of increasing purity by His power alone…
But Jesus died so that we might live. Not lives of burden, but of freedom within His righteousness.
“This grace gives me fear/and this grace draws me near/and all that it asks, it provides.” – Derek Webb, Awake My Soul