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She grew up a nice little girl who went to church and Sunday school every week. It’s what she did with her family. She blossomed under the love and guidance of good teachers and pastors. At home, her family tried to live out the tenets of their Christian faith. Not just on Sundays, but every day.

She felt close to God. She loved the Lord.

As she grew older, she led Bible studies before school. She was active in the church youth group. She wrote faith articles for a youth newsletter. She taught Vacation Bible School. She and her friends sang songs about Jesus. She read her Bible. She was on the straight and narrow road.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

She was confident in her love of the Lord. She was sure that she would never stray. And she didn’t. Well, not for a while. But then she left home to attend college. She made new friends. She was exposed to new ideas. Her love of learning, which was always there, was fanned into flames. Suddenly, the whole world was before her and she was happy to take it all in.

Without knowing it, the world and all it had to offer became her religion.

But she had good intentions. She loved people and wanted to help others. Her focus, which had always been on the Lord, changed to social issues. Without realizing it, she was no longer traveling on that narrow road with the small gate. She had stopped along the way and built a tower in which she lived. It was a tall and strong fortress. It was built from good intentions, one conceding brick at a time.

That’s right. She relinquished all that she believed one idea, one concession at a time.

“It’s okay that prayer is not allowed in school. After all, anyone can say a silent prayer and no one even needs to know,” she thought to herself.

“Sometimes Christians are too judgmental. As if they’re better than everyone else. We should accept and love everyone and live in peace and harmony,” she came to believe.

As her tower grew taller, she grew further from the Lord. She didn’t go to church as much. At least not a traditional church. She went places where they preached about social justice and social action. In looking back, she doesn’t remember the name of the Lord spoken at all. But at the time, she didn’t notice. She was too busy being indoctrinated into this new religion.

But social justice is not the same as having a personal relationship with Jesus. It doesn’t listen to your prayers. Or help you in the middle of the night when you’re lonely or afraid. It doesn’t “lead you in the paths of righteousness for his namesake” (Psalm 23:3). Whatever takes you from the Lord is a distraction. It can have good intentions, but it’s still a distraction. It’s important to help others. Jesus said that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31). But the verse before that reads “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all you soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). The Lord is our first love. Follow him and we’ll be led in paths of righteousness for the Lord’s namesake, not for our own.

Micah 6:8 reads, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Helping others is good, but don’t allow anything to come before the Lord or take his place. In Revelation 2:1-7, the church at Ephesus is told that they do many good works, but they have lost their love and their zeal for the Lord. Works without loving the Lord are meaningless. Good works don’t get us into Heaven. Jesus is the only way to the Father (John 14:6).

What happened to the girl in the tower? She had very long hair, but Jesus didn’t ask her to let her long hair down. This isn’t a fairytale, but he did rescue her. He broke down her tower through the Word. As she re-read the Bible, she realized how wrong she’d been. Like the church in Ephesus, she, too, had left her first love. The Holy Spirit guided her back home and she’s picking daisies again on that narrow path with the small gate.

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Kathy Yoder is a devotional writer. She may be reached at kathyydoe4@gmail.com.

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