Picket Fences or Prison Walls?
At the beginning of this summer, hundreds of thousands of young men and ladies graduated from high schools across America. These young people, and other teenagers and young adults, are at a very exciting and important moment of their lives. The decisions they make during these formative years will have a profound impact on the direction of their lives for decades to come. Some will make wise decisions that will lead them into lives of blessing, peace, joy, and usefulness for God. Others will make fleshly, foolish decisions that will lead them into lives of pain, regret, scars, heartache, shattered dreams, and even death in some cases.
To simplify it, these young people are quickly headed for a life of “picket fences” or “prison walls.” I am not speaking of literal jail time; rather, I am talking about the life that each of these images represents.
Picket Fences Prison Walls
A life of peace A life of bondage
A life of protection A life of regret
A life of prosperity A life of pain
A life of blessing A life of wasted years
A life of usefulness A life of fear
A life of joy A life of scars
A life that people want to live A life that no one wants to live
High school graduation is really just a starting point for the rest of a teenager’s life. A teen’s parents, pastor, and other authorities have guided him, equipped him, and tried to point him in the right direction for those first eighteen years. Now, their control and influence over the daily decisions and direction of their beloved teenager will be very limited. And, in a short time, that teenager’s character and desires will be revealed and his direction toward one life or another will be chosen.
So, what is the key that determines if a young person chooses a life of picket fences or prison walls? I believe the key is in how they view the fences that have been built around them.
For the past eighteen years, Christian young people have had protective “fences” erected around their lives. They have been given
- rules from their parents
- rules from their school
- rules from their leaders (pastor, youth pastor, principal, coaches, teachers, etc.)
- rules from God’s Word
If young people see the benefit of these rules and view them as “picket fences” meant to keep them protected and blessed inside the “house” where God wants them, then they will have no desire to escape, run, or seek a different life. They will realize that the “picket fences” of God-given authority exist to keep harmful things out of their lives.
However, if a young person views these authorities and guidelines in his life as “prison walls,” that young person will do everything within his power to escape, climb out, and get as far as he can from that life as a “prisoner” the first chance he gets. A prisoner spends every waking moment thinking of the day when he will be free again. He thinks about all that he is missing on the “outside.” That is the exact same mentality that a Christian teenager has when he thinks that the fences in his life are actually prison walls. He believes that the guidelines of his pastor, his parents, and his God are keeping him from enjoying some wonderful things on the “outside” of the Christian life, and he will seek the first opportunity to escape from this life of perceived bondage.
The sad part is that the freedom that he finds will actually lead to bondage in his life. God’s Word tells us that sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
So, how do you view the protections and authorities in your life? Do you view them as fences set up to protect you from harmful and hurtful influences, or do you view them as prison walls designed to keep you from some fun that is on the outside?
I would like to give you five challenges that will help you live a life of picket fences instead of prison walls as you graduate into adulthood:
1. Seek Christ.
Grow in grace. You have not arrived as a Christian, and your need for God has not diminished. It is greater than ever! Do not neglect a walk with God. Do not neglect His house. Do not become casual with the things of Christ. Now, more than ever, you need a deep, real relationship with Him. His Word will give you guidance, and His spirit will give you comfort and conviction. How can a young man “cleanse his way?” By taking heed to God’s Word. (Psalm 119:9)
Are you wondering where your life is headed, what decision to make next, what God has in store for you? Read Proverbs 3:5, 6. If you will seek God, He promised to direct your paths. Teenager, seek Christ.
2. Stay close to your authorities.
Seek out time to be with your parents, pastor, youth pastor, teachers, and other spiritual leaders in your life! Realize that they are not there to keep you from having some fun that you are missing out on. They love you and want what is best for you. There is no life more protected and blessed than the life that is surrounded by godly authorities and influences. As you experience the newfound freedom of adulthood, stay close to those who love you the most!
3. Seek correction and guidance.
Someone once said, “When I was 18, my parents didn’t know anything. When I turned 25, I was shocked at how much they had learned in seven years.” Many young people foolishly believe they know what is best for their lives. God’s Word clearly teaches that young men and women should seek counsel and wisdom from those who are more experienced and prudent than they are.
At this stage of your life, your authorities are probably not going to correct you if you do not ask for that correction. Realize that you do not have the wisdom necessary to make the important decisions that you will face in the months and years to come and place yourself under the authority of godly counselors.
4. See the benefit of the fences in your life, and stop looking for what you’re missing.
Realize that the “fences” that others have placed in your life are there to keep out harmful things. They are not there to keep you from enjoying wonderful things.
You are not missing anything by not living a life that is pleasing to the flesh! So often we are like the songwriter who said, “Then do we wonder why others prosper, living so wicked year after year?” Don’t buy into the devil’s lie that you are missing some pleasure, some joy, some fulfillment by living the life of a consecrated Christian. Remember God’s Word: “The way of the transgressor is hard;” but Christ said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
What you are missing is temporary pleasure and lifelong regrets. You’re missing tears, scars, heartaches, hurts, and pain. Realize all that God has blessed you with inside the fence of His will. God’s way is the best way every time. There has never been and never will be an exception to that truth!
5. Sever ties with those trying to climb out.
Proverbs 13:20 is very clear that our relationships have much to do with our life’s direction. Don’t allow wrong relationships to build and blossom, drawing you away from God and godly authorities in your life. Whether it be at work, at church, in college, on Facebook, or in any other social arena, do not allow Satan to grab hold of your life through the avenue of wrong influences. You can be friendly with everyone, but you should only be friends with those who are heading in a God-pleasing direction.
Young adult, you are at a wonderful moment in your life. However, the decisions that you make over the next weeks and months will go a long way toward determining if you live a life of picket fences or prison walls. Choose the picket fences! As a young adult, I did my best to follow the admonitions I have shared with you in this article; and the past fourteen years since my high school graduation have been blessed beyond my wildest dreams. God wants to give you an abundant life as well. The choice is up to you—will you choose picket fences or prison walls?