If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. ~Galatians 5:25
I was talking with one of my children about the discouragement that comes from finding oneself not keeping in step with the Spirit. For the child who loves Jesus and knows Him as his or her Savior, the realization that an area of life is off base or not lining up with the truth of God’s Word can be discouraging and defeating. These moments are prime times for the enemy to speak words of condemnation to young hearts that bind their lives to performance and not to grace.
A word picture that we talk about in terms of keeping in step with the Spirit is playing in the ocean. Whenever we go to the ocean with our bunch of kids, one of the instructions given to the older ones is continue to spot the towels. Everyone knows that there is a current in the ocean that pulls down shore. Sometimes this current is quite strong. Most of the time we are unaware of the current’s pull as we play in the waves. The pull is gentle, insidious. Many times I have enjoyed the ocean only to come out on shore, expecting to see my towels, and instead be startled because I cannot locate them anywhere as I scan the beach. Then the walk back begins.
In the same way the culture around us and our flesh can pull us off the mark of God’s grace and our walk with Him in righteousness and obedience. The pull is often insidious. The enemy is exceptional at presenting a lie just a degree or two off truth. We slowly divert away from His truth and look up to find ourselves way down the beach with the Gospel nowhere in sight. We are easily discouraged as we look at the walk back. Sometimes we want to stay and play right where we have drifted, for in the moment that seems easiest.
But we must return. And as parents, we have the privilege of standing at the beach chairs of Truth, calling out to our children. We may have to walk down the beach to find them. But in the walking back, the conversation of grace and the investment of instruction can help them see how they forgot to make the adjustments in the moments.
And one thing most refreshing is the testimony of another sinner saved by His grace speaking the truth of returning to Him. When we share our own areas where we have to be careful to line our lives up with the truth of God’s word and walk in obedience, when we are humble to share the hard, long walks back we have had to make in different times in our own lives, that honesty illuminates the character of God and points to His faithfulness and grace. Paul continues in Galatians to say, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in an spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” We as parents have the primary opportunity to walk back down the beach with our children, restoring them gently as they return to Him.
Without the small adjustments made daily, the drift can easily occur. Scripture makes clear that with God’s gift of salvation we are given the Holy Spirit. His role is as counselor, teacher, intercessor. He indwells us. We live by Him. On my own I will never realize my drift, never feel the current, never desire to look up to shore. But the Holy Spirit convicts. Keeping in step with Him requires attention. It requires watching His feet and mimicking His pattern. So when we get out of sync with Him, we must return to the truths of the Gospel. Repentance involves confession and turning away from what captured our attention and hijacked our course. God is faithful to forgive us!