In junior high, one of the blessings of the Denver youth group I so dearly loved was a week-long summer camp with that entire youth group and another 100 or so kids. The camp was called "Hike the Stars" and was held high up in the beautiful rocky mountains. Each day of that week, our groups were given the opportunity to participate in a challenge, and of all of them, the one that most stands out in my mind was the morning I went "polar bearing".
I suspect many people may know what that is, but just in case, picture this scene...it is 7am in the Rockies. (Morning temps in the Rockies in June are generally cool [50-ish degrees] and the air is crisp.) You are a scrawny 8th grader who has yet to really by found by the blessings of puberty. You have been pulled from sleep much earlier than you would have chosen, have dressed in layers, and after a bus ride, are now standing on the ledge above a pristine high-elevation mountain lake. A lake fed by spring snow melt. A very, very cold lake. And you are waiting for your turn to jump in.
Such was the scene in June of 1986. I still to this day cannot believe that I actually had the nerve to do it, such the timid kid that I was, but when it came my turn, I did indeed peel off all my comfy and protective layers until I was wearing nothing but a swimsuit over that awkward and childish frame, and on the count of three (or perhaps 11), I jumped in.
Instantly, pins and needles pierced my skin, my breath was stripped right from my lungs, sheer panic gripped my mind, and in a fight-or-flight response unparalleled by any other in my life, I fled as fast as I could for the bank. I could not breathe it was so cold. I could barely control my own muscles. There was no amount of tolerance in a single nerve cell of my flesh that could have kept me in that frigid water, and all I could do was flee to safety. To my towel. To my comforting and protective layers in the warming sunshine. Away from that cold water.
Have you ever been afraid enough of something to flee from it? A big spider? A mouse? A dangerous place? An angry person? Anything? Has anything made you so afraid, or repulsed you so very much, that your only response was to flee for safety?
The Random House College Dictionary defines flee as 1. to run away, as from dangers, pursuers, etc.; take flight. 2. to move swiftly; fly; speed. 3. to run away from. That is scary stuff. Make no joke about it, fleeing is serious business, and in our human experience it is typically reserved for moments when fear has gripped our heart, mind, and body. Fleeing can often feel like the difference between life and death. Now consider this...
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 1st Corinthians 6:18
Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. 1st Corinthians 10:14
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 1st Timothy 6:10-11
Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 2nd Timothy 2:22
When I read these passages, I am reminded of the heart-gripping fear, and my automatic response to flee, that I felt in the icy lake in those beautiful mountains. The setting gave me nothing to fear, in fact it was gorgeous. The people around me gave me nothing to fear, in fact they were my friends and I trusted them. The pleasure of swimming gave nothing to fear, in fact it was a summertime leisure activity I adored. But in contrast to the setting, the company, and the activity, was the masked danger of that frigid water. That water possessed the power to take my life, should I have stayed in it long enough and allowed it to reduce my body's temperature to the point of no return. Although it looked pristine, that lake was pure danger to my very survival. It may have been an exhilarating moment for me to cast caution aside and in front of all of my friends jump in with both feet, but in reality I did not belong there and could not control the automatic flight right back to the safety of the shore.
Oh, how I wish I possessed that same flight response from all the sin in my life. How I wish I could have the very breath from my lungs stripped away every time I entered into a sinful situation or sinful thought. How I wish I my muscles would go on autopilot when I jumped into sin, so that in an instant I'd find myself safe on the shore again. How I wish the temptations to go along with the crowd, be somebody in front of my friends, or grab hold of dangerous truths could be uglier than the deceptively pretty environment in which we all live.
The truth of the matter is that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and therefore we are to flee from sin. We are to turn away, run away, push away from the situations that will cause us to sin. We are to remain on the ledge and peer into the darkness, and then choose to turn our backs without jumping in. Unfortunately, there are too many days in my life when I have not--nor do not--flee from my sin. The sad truth, some sin feels good, becomes a crutch, is a comfort zone, provides an excuse, and, we think, can be written off on Christ's tax return. But the truth is that we are to flee from our sexual sin, our lust, our idolatry, our greed, our envy, our deceptions, our jealousies...all of our sin...as if our very life depended on it.
(It actually does.)
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7
Today I pray that we can get out of the lake, wrap up in God's love, and bask in the saving and warming power of Son! And let's have a blast doing it.