The summer following my high school graduation, I had the opportunity to go on a weeklong mission trip. It fit exactly in the middle of my “Best Summer Ever” plans. It would be my final hoorah with my high school youth group, and I would still have a month to spend time with friends before heading to college. What could be better?
Throughout the trip, I sought every chance to serve others without holding back, knowing that I would be on a plane home within seven days. Run a sports camp for children? Check. Provide meals and have genuine conversations with people living on the streets? I’m in. Scrub dirty toilets?
Gross, but sure. Each day was more tiring than the day before, but each day also became a clearer picture of what sacrificial love looks like. God was using the trip to mold my heart to look more like His.
The day before we were scheduled to leave, I told a friend about what I was processing: “I believe God is calling me to come back to serve here. Maybe I can return for a week or two during my winter break.” This felt like a valid, honorable response to what God was doing in my heart. But, God had other plans.
“What if you stayed here for the rest of the summer instead?” she asked. I immediately laughed, acknowledging that her question couldn’t be a serious suggestion. My friend’s eyebrows rose and her head tilted in a way that ensured I would listen. “What if you’re supposed to give up some good things this summer in order for God to remain the greatest thing in your life?”
Do you know the feeling of a room spinning because of a single question? The moment where all of your desires, expectations, and hopes are unexpectedly laid out in front of you? This was supposed to be my summer. Staying an extra month would mean having to let that go. I was uncomfortable.
After praying through the decision and making a few phone calls, 24 hours later I was waving goodbye to my team. I didn’t fully understand why it was best for me to stay, but the Lord made clear that this was where I needed to be. Giving up some good things was worth following the greater One.
During Jesus’ ministry, He encountered a young man who desired to follow Him. The man asked what he needed to do to follow Jesus, and Jesus responded with the challenge to sell everything he owned and to give it to the poor. What a difficult moment! Imagine Jesus walking into your house and asking you to get rid of everything for Him. This was a tall order. Upon hearing this from Jesus, the man walked away because it was too much for him to give up.
This story wasn’t a commentary on money being evil; rather it reveals Jesus as the greatest thing above any other. Jesus wanted the young man to understand that following Him is worth more than any amount of good things one can accumulate. He gives true joy and everlasting life. Nothing compares. He is the greatest thing.
Parents, how are you actively displaying that Jesus is greater than the good things in your life? I imagine one of your most sincere hopes for your high schooler is that he chooses to follow Jesus over the good things the world has to offer. As the primary discipler of your children, you exemplify what it looks like to follow Christ. Are you willing to ask the Lord to help you recognize Him as the greatest thing in your life? What if you invited your high schooler to ask the same question alongside you? What a powerful opportunity for God to work in your lives as you are uncomfortable together. God desires to help us revolve all of our desires, expectations, and hopes around Him. Our plans may change, yet God will remain the greatest thing through it all.