(Image courtesy of Charles Schultz, Peanuts.)

As a high school teacher, I have the unique opportunity of observing many different people.  Not only do I get to form professional relationships and several, close friendships with my colleagues, but I also get to learn from the many students I see on a daily basis.  No that wasn't a typo.  Although I am a teacher, I find myself being taught just as many lessons as I teach my students.

One lesson I learned was last year and it was from a freshman named
Andrew.  Andrew played football and was the quaterback and middle linebacker on the team.  He was an outstanding scholar as well, scoring a 26 on his ACT as a freshman.  God had blessed him with many talents.  I met with Andrew and a couple others on Friday mornings in my classroom before the school day started and we would pray and share with each other.  Andrew shared something that challenged me greatly.  He said he was faithful in waking up at 5 every morning to read and study the Bible and to pray.  I was amazed at his commitment.  God taught me commitment through Andrew's dedication.  Now I try to do the same thing (except at 6 instead of 5).

Many of the lessons I learn are from observation, though.  Yesterday, I finally came to a conclusion regarding an issue I had been observing for quite some time.

Every human being desires to feel loved.  This is probably no secret.  The need is to feel loved, not just be loved.  This dichotomy is as vital to understand as the difference between feeling warmth and just being told you're warm.  A fire, if it could speak, could say, "I'm giving off warmth to you" and never actually be lit.  But a lit fire shows itself to be warm.  Words are empty unless they are backed up with action.  Without quality, close relationships with other people, and most importantly our Creator, we feel unloved and unwanted.  When you begin to mix the genders into this already delicate human need, things can get complicated.

The first place meaningful relationships are formed is in the home.  No, I'm not talking about with home appliances, such as the television, but I am talking about relationships with family (although some people spend more time with the TV than with their family members).  A young boy must hear the words, "I'm proud of you" from his father - and actually feel the pride in his father's voice.  A young girl must hear the words, "I'm so glad you are my daughter" by her father - and actually feel the closeness by his actions of love the rest of the time the words are not being spoken.  A mother must validate her son by not only saying, but showing to him that his opinion has merit and his ideas have value.  A mother, likewise, must show her daughter that she can be both confidant and support to her in the emotional highs and the emotional lows.  This is where a healthy sense of love and want are developed.  Without it (and, on some occasions, even with it), the effects are devastating.

I see it all the time, and I just saw it yesterday.  A girl flaunts her body, trying desperately to gain some attention, some acceptance, to find someone who will want her.  She knows how to get the attention she is craving because every time she talks flirty, walks flirty, or wears revealing clothing, she gets attention from boys.  And she loves it.  It's all about her.  But she still doesn't feel fulfilled, even after it leads to a one-night stand of "love" (which is actually just lust).

A boy, seeking validation and respect, will chase after a woman, but once he uses her and finds in time (and he will) that she didn't meet his need for fulfillment, he moves on.  Why?  Because man is selfish.  He will engross himself in pornography, finding only a fleeting glimpse of deceptive fulfillment until at last he has become addicted, worse off than he was before.  So he might turn to his friends, as often is the case in both genders, to find acceptance.  This, in turn, yields its way to congregational sins, usually with drunkenness and orgies.  But his striving only leads to despair and anger.  He is not the man he wants to be.

All in all, the problem is and always will be our sin nature.  The girl must check the source for which she is craving love and acceptance.  If the source is man, then she will never be satisfied.  She will only ruin herself and ask later, "What happened to me?" if she has the presence of mind to ask herself at all.  The boy must check the source for his thirst for his validation and respect.  If the source is woman, he will always be left unquenched.  No matter how many different girls he lies with, no matter how many gangs he rolls with, he will ask himself when he comes to his senses, "Is this all there is?"

The only source that can quench - and will never stop quenching - our desire and our basic, human need for love and acceptance is Jesus.  Why?  Because Jesus is not sin.  In fact, He is the farthest thing from it.  Jesus is whole.  We are broken.

A mechanic was once repairing a flat tire.  He went out to the back of the shop and brought in another tire, just as flat as the first.  The owner of the vehicle asked the mechanic, "I thought you said you were going to fix my flat tire?"  The mechanic studied the owner of the vehicle and replied, "I did."  How foolish it would be try to meet a need with something that is already broken!  Yet we try time and time again to fill our needs for love and acceptance with more broken people.  The only answer to fixing a flat tire is to get a new tire, without blemish or leak.

The problem, as I said before, is sin.  Sin destroys everything, including the things God designed for good.  A human relationship alone cannot fix anything, no matter how great your marriage may be.  It is only when God enters our worlds that things start to be repaired.  God is not a god of the broken things.  He takes broken things and makes them whole again.

Turn to Jesus!  His mercies are new every morning.  The Only One who conquered sin for good is ready to quench your thirst for love and acceptance in Himself.

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery [to sin]" (Galatians 5:1).