"Do you think they will be all right? It's such a long way." "How far are they going today?" "Well, it's a school bus, so other drivers should be especially careful." The parents were trying to hide their anxiety. They were gathered around a bus that was soon to leave for summer camp. On that bus were their sons and daughters. Some of the young people had not been away from home before. And here they were, preparing to drive from California to a summer camp on the other side of the country — on the other side of the world, it seemed. The parents were glad that their children had such a wonderful opportunity. But in the last few minutes while the big yellow bus prepared to leave, the happiness gave way to worry. Meanwhile, on the bus, confidence reigned. If any of the 40 or so teenagers on the bus were nervous, they certainly weren't showing it. But then, why should they? These kids were 14 or 15 years old. Some had even reached the dizzying heights of being 16 or 17! They could handle it. Some of the teens made a dutiful last-moment appearance at the window to wave farewell to their tight-lipped fathers and tearful mothers. Then it was back to the more serious business of finding a place to sit with their friends in the tangle of tennis shoes, pillows and overnight luggage that filled the inside of the bus. At last, with a loud blast of the horn and a cheer from inside, the accumulated result of nearly 700 years of parental care and child rearing was swept off down the freeway. Our own daughters called us from Des Moines, Iowa, two days later. Yes, everything was fine. Yes, they were having fun. No, they hadn't gotten much sleep. No, they didn't have enough money. "Gotta go — bye!" And of course, they arrived all right, just like they knew they would. That's so typical of teenagers, isn't it? They are so full of confidence and eager to try new things. They are amused and perhaps a bit embarrassed by their parents' concern.
Too much too soon
Teenagers don't like to be thought of as children. Physically they may be as tall as Mom and Dad. They have to pay full fare on buses and airplanes, and they deeply resent being offered the child's menu at a restaurant. Mentally they are growing up, too. They stop being little children, believing and accepting without question everything they are taught. They begin to get their own ideas and form their own beliefs. Wise parents recognize this. But a wise parent also realizes that teenagers are not quite as ready for the world as they think they are. Several more years of experience and education are needed to make the most of life's opportunities. That is why we were worried as we watched the bus disappear. A lot can go wrong, even on a carefully planned bus trip. Our 14-, 15-, 16- and 17-year-old children suddenly seemed small and vulnerable, and we couldn't help being concerned. Just like God worries about us sometimes. The Bible clearly shows that if we as physical parents are concerned for the welfare of our physical children, our Father in heaven is many times more concerned for the well-being of His spiritual sons and daughters (Hebrews 12:9, Psalms 103:13-14). As parents, we have the responsibility to prepare our young people for their next 50 or more years of physical life. But God must watch over Spirit-begotten children in the first years of a life that must last forever. So if it is dangerous for a physical child to try to shrug off his parents' care and go it alone before he is ready, how much worse is it to do that spiritually?
A lesson in humility
Are you in danger of becoming a spiritual teenager? Jesus Christ once taught His disciples an important lesson in humility. They had been having one of their frequent arguments over which one of them was going to be the most important in God's Kingdom. Jesus called a little child over to Him and told the disciples, "Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3). The little child, meanwhile, stood quietly by Jesus, waiting to see what He wanted. Jesus continued, "Whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (verse 4). What did Jesus mean? Was He saying that He wanted His Kingdom to be composed of immature, small-minded little people who just do what they are told and never think for themselves? Not at all! He had already decided that those very men who had been quarreling would one day be working together in a major responsibility judging the 12 tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28). But only if they qualified. The way they were acting, they would not even be in the Kingdom. They had to learn to humble themselves — like a little child. The little fellow who came running over to Jesus showed an attitude of trust and obedience. He wasn't too self-important or too busy doing his own thing to come when he was called.
Learning to be childlike
As young people grow up, they begin to develop new priorities. That isn't necessarily bad. We should not expect a maturing teenager to continue to act with the naiveté and blind obedience of a 5-year-old. But spiritually, we should all maintain the simple innocence of little children. Why? Because there is still so much to learn. We have spent most of our lives learning the wrong way to live. We have had an excellent training ground — Satan's world. But once converted, God wants us to come out of that world. He needs to begin teaching us a new way of life, so that eventually we can teach others in the world tomorrow. But first, we have to admit that we have not known the first thing about God's way of life. We have lived a way that may have seemed right, but we now realize that it led to death (Proverbs 16:25) .When it comes to knowing what leads to life, we are as helpless as newborn babies. The apostle Peter had to write words of correction to some early Church brethren who were bringing some of the old ways into their new lives. He encouraged them to, "as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby" (I Peter 2:2). Newborn, breast-fed babies don't argue. They absorb as much as possible, hungrily and gratefully.
Don't lose the first love
This is usually the way people are when God first opens their eyes to His truth. They can't learn fast enough. With their voracious appetite, and guided by the Holy Spirit, they quickly put on spiritual weight. But after a while, that appetite falls off. Some of the wonder has gone out of the new knowledge, and we start to become casual. Do you remember the first time you did something you shouldn't have done on the Sabbath, after you knew better? You expected the roof to fall in. But it didn't. Nor did fire come down from heaven when you cheated a bit on your tithes. And the earth didn't open up and swallow you when you told a white lie. Like a teenager, you find that you can wander farther and farther from home without getting into difficulties. Maybe you start once again to "do your own thing." The humble, "first-love" attitude fades. You begin to resent correction — you feel you don't need to be told. King Saul, the first king of ancient Israel, is an example of a tragic slide into a wrong attitude. Though he was humble at first, Saul eventually became so independent that God rejected him from being king. When Saul was "little in his own eyes". (I Samuel 15: 17), he was able to fill the position. But when he began to get overly self-confident and rely on himself, God could no longer use him. Those God is training to be kings and priests in tomorrow's world must learn from King -Saul's mistake. We are learning and developing a new way of life, and God wants us to remain humble and teachable. We must, in order that we may grow up properly and take our places in God's Kingdom and government. During the last two decades Satan's world has fed us on a steady diet of "doing our own thing," "developing our own potential," "becoming our own man (or woman)" and carefully nurturing our self-esteem. To be "little in our own eyes" is not the way of the world today. But it must be the way of those God has called to help in the world tomorrow.