Growing up in a strict fundamentalist home, I wondered why God let the devil have all the good music. But I would never tell my parents that—they didn’t even let us go to school dances, much less listen to pop music. Our church’s summer camp had strict rules about PDA (public displays of affection). Mild flirting was tolerated, but there was absolutely no handholding. We had to sneak off in the woods with the boys just to kiss, and we often came home with mysterious patches of poison ivy.
When I got older, I guess I rebelled against my conservative upbringing. So much had been “off-limits” for so long that I kind of went wild once I was out on my own. I smoked pot with some friends in college and started drinking pretty heavily. For the first time in my life, I was popular with the right people. I was free and enjoying every minute of it.
I thought about God from time to time, especially when I would come home for school breaks. I knew he wouldn’t approve of my new lifestyle (or my new boyfriend), but I did not intend to give up either. My boyfriend and I moved in together right after we graduated so we could both look for jobs in Boston, but that turned out to be a disaster. The job and the boyfriend. Now, five years after college, I hardly talk with any of my college friends, though the girls from work and I hit the bars after work every weekend.
I suppose it’s time to grow up and settle into the routine of being a devout religious person again. I just keep putting it off. Maybe I’ll wait till I have a real career and start a family. Even then, I’m not sure I’ll be ready for high-maintenance Christianity again. There’s a lot on God’s list I’m not ready to forego just yet.
Why do we think God’s rules are designed to strip all the fun out of life? Perhaps for the same reason that kids think their parents’ job is to make their lives miserable. We don’t like to think of ourselves as children, but from God’s perspective, that’s exactly what we are (see John 1:12). Why is an indignant attitude toward God’s commands childish?
We see what looks like fun—temptation has a beautiful face—but God sees the misery it would bring us.
We don’t fully trust God. We suspect that he’s holding out on us.
When God draws the line, we manipulate and stretch the rules to place a single toe over it.
We think God is trying to rein us in from experiencing all of life when in reality he is lovingly protecting us from dangers we’re not smart enough to avoid.
If only we could see. If only we could see the suffering that our choices bring. If only we could see the lifelong consequences we’ll face. If only we would take God’s commands to heart. If only we’d take him at his word.
God wants us to respond to him with obedience, but not out of a sense of duty, resentment or compliance (see Isaiah 29:13). Not because he is a cosmic control freak. And not because keeping rules can earn his approval. God wants us to obey him for the love of him (see 1 John 5:3). Once we move from rule-keeping to a relationship with God based on love, we’ll see his commands in a different light.
“God’s will is what you would choose for your own life, if you had sense enough to choose it.”