For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. (Romans 8:15-17)
Last night in youth group, we discussed God’s adoption of his people – how adoption serves as a beautiful metaphor for how God, in his kindness and magnanimity, chose to save men who, because of sin, were not his own. He initiated the pursuit; he made the first move. There was nothing a believer could do to seek God first; he reached out with his offer of salvation, and we responded. Amazing.
But it occurred to me last night that God doesn’t just initiate; he finishes. He closes.
Our youth group is currently in the midst of our annual “purity series”.
Our youth group sees fit to devote several weeks every February to the subject of purity with its many angles, and I can’t disagree with their choice. Given the escalating danger that sexual promiscuity poses to our young people in today’s bankrupt society, an emphatic approach seems right.
Last night’s message featured possibly the best possible angle on purity, the best reason to pursue purity.
It came, rather unexpectedly (for me), out of 1 Peter 1 – a passage that gives holiness the backdrop of a cosmic secret, withheld even from the angels.
During my time in the Air Force, I had a boss named Sergeant Carlson.
He was the kind of leader you talk about years later and would still gladly shake his hand. He had a gift for balancing the needs of the mission with genuine concern for the troops under his charge. We knew he really cared. We also knew he wouldn’t hesitate to snap us back in line if we needed it. (As with any young punk, there were days when I needed it.)
A season came in which I was not performing well. I got two Letters of Counseling (LOCs) in a short span, one from Sgt. Carlson, one from another sergeant in our office. My mistakes had grounded a couple jets from their scheduled sorties. I had earned both reprimands straight up, and thanks to God, I had enough maturity to accept them with humility.
But inside, the story was different: one reprimand was a lot easier to accept. You can probably guess that it was Sgt. Carlson’s.
“I don’t think I’m gonna make it,” I panted.
Below us sprawled the Flathead Valley in its pristine summer beauty, seemingly close enough to touch, the houses and trees like playthings from our vantage at 7,000 feet.
But I barely noticed the view. My friend and I were sitting, gasping for breath, on Columbia Mountain on Friday with 30-pound packs – an elevation gain of 4,500 feet in 6 miles – and I was more exhausted than ever in my life. Seriously. This beat even my black belt test.
I don’t know whether it was the altitude, being out of shape, or both, but my arms were going numb, my legs shaking, and a deep pain starting in my chest. The scorching sun beat down (seriously, moon, you couldn’t eclipse three days sooner?); sweat beaded and dripped off our necks. Everything was dust (the trees having long ago gotten smaller due to altitude).
It had become switchback, switchback, five minute rest, repeat. The summit was in view, but stubbornly refused to grow closer. Was the mountain growing as we hiked?