It was my senior year of high school. It was "senior skip day", you know, the day when every senior skips school. My friends had planned this day for a while. We were going to leave our homes in the morning as if we were going to school, and then head out for a great breakfast and then off to the Jersey shore. I knew it was the wrong thing to do (especially when your father works in the same school system that you are in). That pit sat in my stomach as we gathered around the diner table, figuring out what to have for breakfast. It was then that I realized I couldn't do it - I couldn't skip school that day. I knew the expectations my parents had for me and I knew the trouble I would be in if they found out I skipped school (and that was something I didn't want to engage in). So after the coaxing and poking I received when I asked my friends to drop me off near school, I went back to school while they headed to the shore.
Has someone ever said to you statements like:
- "It won't hurt you to live on the edge a little"
- "Come on, take a risk"
- "Don't worry, nobody will find out"
- "Just do it once"
Typically, if you say NO to any of those statements, they can be followed with:
- "You're such a goody two- shoes"
- "You're so prissy"
- or my all time favorite, "You're no fun"!
Trying to live a life that mirrors that of our Lord can be difficult, especially when there are many temptations all around us. So many times, trying to do the right thing and to live a life of righteousness can be hard. People all around us want us to do things that go against the way God is asking us to live our lives. It can certainly range from people "poking" at you to swear, "Come on, you can do it just once." Maybe it is someone pressuring you to gossip with them about someone. Of course, the pressures can get even greater when we start talking about relationships, drugs and alcohol. There are many areas that we can delve into that focus on things we shouldn't do.
Living a righteous life helps us to be focused. No, it doesn't mean one can't have fun. It just means that our drive, our actions, and our words are embedded in a lifestyle that God wants for us. One actually finds joy living a life that more closely mirrors the one Jesus has described. There are many ways to live life that is heaven bound. No, it doesn't mean that we are perfect (trust me when I say that!). It does mean that when we do sin (large or small), we take those sins to the cross, to the one who died for us. It means that when someone says:
- "You're no fun"
- "Your God won't mind you doing this just this once,"
- "If you're not going to do this with us, then you can't hang out with us,"
- "Hanging with us means you need to do a few bad things every once in a while"
...that you make a choice to walk away, to deal with the persecution, and follow in the footsteps of the one who gave His life for you. It means that you reach out to Jesus in prayer, let Him know the pressures you feel, and ask for Him to guide you through these situations. For, as the beatitude states, when you do this you will see "the kingdom of heaven". Now that is something worth being made fun of. Holding fast in the face of temptation is hard. Goodness knows, I have not always been successful. There were many times that I didn't want to deal with the "persecution" and fell to the temptation. Those moments still happen today and are certainly moments that I am not proud of.
Yet, we know that when those moments happen, our ability to reach out to Jesus to ask for forgiveness is a few words away. While we are praying for ourselves, we might just want to say an extra prayer for the one who is persecuting you, too. Everyone can use a prayer bringing them towards the kingdom of heaven.
"Dearest Jesus, may we be reminded that when people make fun of us for the righteous choices we make, that we are living the life that you want for us. It's not easy and many times we give in to the temptations of that persecution. Yet, help guide us towards choices that align closer to You, closer to the life You want for us, closer to Your kingdom. In your gracious name I pray, Amen!"