Have you ever wondered, “What was I thinking?” Probably the craziest time in my life was my teen years. I had a wonderful Christian mother and was also surrounded by sincere believers in Christ. That, however did not stop me from doing stupid things, like shoplifting, vandalism and even breaking into a store to steal from others. By God’s grace, yes, HIS GRACE, I was eventually caught and punished. Several weeks of incarceration halted my life of crime, but it would not be until several years later that I would return to the wonderful life that Christ had planned for me.

To this day I do not understand how I could have hurt my mother so. How I could embarrass my family and shame myself after all the good things I had been taught and the examples I had seen?

This experience has taught me to be cautious of how I look at others. If God had not intervened for me through the justice system, through supportive family, friends and teachers, what direction my life might have taken? These are things for which I cannot take any credit.

However this cautiousness in itself does not satisfy my concerns for the situations we as a society, a community are in. If I look at a young person whose main activity in life is exploiting other young people by hooking them on addicting chemicals, or if I see the devastation that another young man causes through terrorism, yes, I can say, “there but by God’s grace go I.” Under the same circumstances of course, that could have been me. While this realization may help me, does it help anyone else?

People need compassion and empathy, but they also need the truth. They need direction, like the direction I received as a teen. I fear that in our day we like to take the easy way out. It can be very difficult to find the balance between compassion and lovingly telling the truth. We have to start somewhere. We cannot walk in everyone elses shoes, but we do all have some things in common. We have all sinned and have come short of the glory of God. We can all receive forgiveness and restoration through faith in the work that Jesus accomplished for us in His death and resurrection.

When I remember how obstinate and hard-headed I was as a teenager, I can understand how our youth might be motivated to do stupid things as well. At the same time, my hope is that they do not have to make the same mistakes. This may sound hard on my part, but if they do make these kinds of mistakes, I pray that God’s grace might provide for the helpful kind of discipline that I received back then!

Perhaps you could join with me in praying for the necessary wisdom to reach others with compassion and faith. These are so needed in our time.