When I was a teenager in England, a lot of my friends started going to nightclubs even though they were too young to do so legally. Some of them would boast about the guys they met there and slept with. I felt I shouldn't go to clubs, because I was underage, too, but sometimes I felt pressured and inadequate because I wasn't in on all their experiences. My friends told me that I was missing out on an important stage of growing up. I really had to stand my ground in the face of their allegations.
I was, however, learning other lessons that were much more important. At the church I attended every week, I was gaining a sense of my true identity. In the Christian Science textbook I read, "Children should be allowed to remain children in knowledge, and should become men and women only through growth in the understanding of man's higher nature" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Pg. 62). At first I thought that meant I should remain ignorant or naive. But that is not the case. I learned that since I was the child of God, made in His perfect image, I had unlimited access to everything that I needed. God's goodness is infinite. Therefore, I could turn directly to God for guidance and joy.
These lessons were very important to me. They helped me realize that God provided all the experience I needed to mature naturally, so there was no way I could miss out on any part of my "growing up." God's love for me was boundless, and He supplied all good. If I didn't have a boyfriend or didn't go out at night, then perhaps I just didn't need those experiences at that time.
There were distinct benefits to this perspective. I could concentrate better on my studies. I also found over time that I avoided the problems with drugs, alcohol, and sex before marriage that many of my friends were having.
When I reached the legal age, I decided to start joining my friends at pubs and clubs for evenings out. I was surprised at the extent that my friends needed to drink to have fun. At first, I was uncomfortable when I was out with them, but soon I began to find that what I understood about God clarified my reasons for being out with them. After all, God is everywhere, so I could never be outside His influence. Expressing the qualities of God, such as joy, love, and goodness, had always brought me the most happiness. I could express those qualities anywhere. I remembered I was expressing honesty every time I got to the door of a pub or nightclub, because I knew I was now old enough to be there. I realized that since God was there with us, I could always find and live these good qualities.
My friends soon noticed that I was happy without drinking alcohol and that they could not persuade me to change my habits. In fact, it didn't take long for them to see that I actually had a better time than they did, since I never suffered from alcohol poisoning and was never hung over the next day. By constantly acknowledging that the source of my happiness was God, I could feel the genuine enjoyment that is not dependent on a drug. I also found that this frame of mind made it easier for me to hear and follow God's direction.
By valuing innocence, you can move through the world with more freedom, not less. Every day we are confronted with choices. It's OK not to take part in things that you don't feel good about. We already have our true identity as the image and likeness of God, and this supports our honest decisions. We never need to feel that being a "child in knowledge" means that we're ignorant of anything good or that we're missing out on anything. Not when being the child of God means that we are complete and unlimited.
Now concerning spiritual
gifts, brethren, I would not
have you ignorant.
I Corinthians 12:1