For more than sixty years I have observed young people leaving the "nest" - going away to school, getting married, moving to another city to find work, etc. Exposure to negative influence for many youth begins long before they leave home, so this will not be the first time they will be tempted to experiment with different life styles. But it will be the first time they will be making serious decisions without the immediate influence of familiar people and institutions. Even in my rural town of 7000, many middle school children already know where they can get drugs and alcohol, so it is important to start early instilling values and teaching facts of life to children. When they leave the "nest" our children should already know to what, when and how to say "no".
As the youth have left from churches where I have been pastor, it has always been my prayer that we will have taught them to have minds that are both open and discerning, and that they have acquired a set of values that will help keep them safe. It has also been my prayer that they would not be prejudiced and closed minded "little Methodists", who are frightened by new or conflicting information, and that they would be open to seeing the values in other denominations and in different forms of worship.
Youth, especially this day and age, face many temptations to experiment with different life styles. There are some life styles and lanes of living which in and of themselves are dead-end streets, and which have trouble written all over them, and the street signs read "Disaster Drive" and "Blunder Boulevard". People who mess with drugs, for instance, are headed for all kinds of trouble. People who live in a constant state of rebellion, whose ear is tied to no tongue but their own, and whose brain does not seem to be connected to either, will finally collide with immoveable realities.
I have a retired military officer friend who when his son left home asked him to promise he would not do two things: buy a motorcycle or experiment with cocaine. Some years later his son confessed that while he had not bought a motorcycle, he had tried cocaine one time. He said: "It gave me such a euphoric high that I knew if I did it one more time I would be hooked." What a wonderful example of a discerning mind. He was "raised right".
There are some forms of dangerous behavior that initially feel so good that it is difficult to imagine what great damage they can do. Any time something exotically pleasing happens quickly, it is not likely to have a good outcome. "Falling in love" is one of these seductive experiences that initially feels so good that one is easily blinded to the possible destructive consequences. Any sudden feeling should be tested against known reality before being acted upon. Young women (or women of any age) should understand that the sparkle in some new boy friend's eye may be the light shinning through a hole in his head. I don't care if your grandmother did marry you grandfather after a two week, whirlwind courtship, and that they have been married fifty years. Sometimes people get lucky and survive skating on thin ice. What worked, or seemed to have worked, for grandmother may not work for you. Be careful.
There are some people who are not just drifting toward disaster, they are racing blindly "ninety to nothing", on a collision course with realities that will not move over and let a fool fly by. I see them every day, and I cringe as I wait for the sound of twisted steel and broken glass, and the smell of death.
There is an interesting story of a battleship on maneuvers in heavy weather for several days. One evening as night fell on the foggy sea the captain decided to stay on the bridge to keep an eye on things. The lookout on the wing of the bridge reported, "There is a light bearing on the starboard bow". The captain asked if were steady or moving astern. The lookout reported that it was steady, which meant they were on a collision course with whatever was approaching. The captain called to the signalman: "Signal that ship that we are on a collision course and advise him to change course twenty degrees". Back came a signal: "Advise you change your course twenty degrees". Becoming agitated, the captain said: "Send this. ‘I am a captain. Change your course twenty degrees.'" The reply came back: "I am a seaman, second class. Change your course twenty degrees immediately." The captain was furious. He barked: "Send ‘I am a battleship. Change your course twenty degrees!'" Back came the message: "I am a lighthouse. Change your course twenty degrees."
There are some things in life that are not going to move over and let you pass, no matter how cocky you feel. For some people it takes a collision to learn this. For instance, one does not literally "break" any of the Ten Commandments, but many people are broken by a head-on collision with one of them.
Some realities do not change, or even bend. The wise person learns from the experience of others, a fool insists on learning by personal experience.