January 3, 2006

Reigned in by love

What is it about a limit that makes me want to go past it? If there’s a boundary, I want to see what is beyond it. If a sign says take one per person, I want 3. If the speed limit is 75, I set my cruise control at 79. If a diet says to eat no more than 4 ounces, I slap on another spoonful. I crave more…even if it’s just one more ounce or 4 more miles an hour. If there’s a rule, I wonder what will happen if I break it.

By the way, just because I want to doesn’t mean I do….nor does it mean I don’t. *doing a little word dance* It depends on the circumstance….and the consequence. Situational ethics creep in like in the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip above. I am not sure if all personality types have that constant struggle, but mine is prone to be lacsadasical, at best, about rules. (I’ve even been know to call them suggestions.) It is ridiculous, but I’m prone to rebellious feelings and curiosity that would have killed the cat like a slam dunk. Maybe this is what Paul was talking about in Romans 7:19-21. It is a very real struggle between our sin nature and the Holy Spirit.

When I was in sixth grade, I had a group of friends who were not the best influence, but they were cool. During lunch break, we would walk the perimeter or the playground, talking. There is a word picture in there….walking the perimeters….just waiting for a chance to step beyond them. I was intimidated, yet somehow in my 11 year old mind impressed, by these girls and how ‘cool’ they were. Listening to them talk of the boys they knew and the parties they would get away with having on weekends while parents worked, made me curious.

I was with these girls one day at lunch break when we stepped out of the boundary and off the playground. I found myself running with them to a nearby drugstore, where we were going to get some candy. To my amazement and anger, when we picked out our choices (we got Pez candy because you could eat it more inconspicuously during class), the leader of our group said, “Now all you have to do is walk out, like nothing is going on. Act natural.” So one by one they walked out without paying, but I couldn’t. I stood in line at the counter and paid while they all stood outside the window, laughing at my lack of ‘confidence’ to do what they had all done. What stopped me was the thought of getting caught. The thought of my parents being informed that I had sneaked off campus and then shoplifted was more than I was willing to chance, thankfully.

Love reigned me in…. my parents loved me and I did not want to disappoint them. The boundaries were there and I had pushed them back, broken through and could have really set a rebellious precedent that day. Everyone in the sixth grade would have known how rebellious and cool I was, I’m sure…if I had gone through with it. I think that if I had the kind of home those friends of mine did, I may have done it. But I had a home where I was loved and taken care of, where I was taught to honor God and to have good morals. I was taught to respect my parents and the serious consequences of disobedience.

Gradually I stopped hanging around with those girls, but as seventh and eighth grades went by, I kept my eye on them. I watched their lives and took notice, even at that young age, of how pitiful it was to see them thinking they were cool, but knowing how awful their lives were. I had been to their homes, I knew. Wisdom and discernment started to develop in me. I had compassion on those girls, I felt pity for them, but I didn’t know at that age how to help them.

Later on in my middle teen years I learned to curb my rebellious nature by taking my own relationship with Christ more seriously, reading my Bible every morning and listening to Christian music. My pastor’s wife at the time challenged us to start a quiet time. And during the same period, a youth leader was challenging us to listen to Christian music. Choosing to fill my mind with good things, with the knowledge of the Word and encouragement from this new music helped me to be reigned in by a far greater love than even my family. I was learning how much Christ loved me and how much He sacrificed for my rebellious ways, my sin.

What the law couldn’t do, Christ does for us. His love is the motivating source of our obedience, not the consequences of disobedience. Instead of seeing how far I could push a limit, I learned to gladly accept **most** of them in my life because I knew they were there out of love for me from a gracious God.

The rebellious nature never left me completely, I am sad to say. I still struggle with it every day. I know what I want to become, I see the ideal and desire it, but everyday rebellious little choices and attitudes are keeping me from my big picture. Thankfully I remember God’s grace toward me and pick myself up to start again…. new every morning. I know He looks upon me as a daughter and is seeing the potential in me to become what He wants me to be. So I am ashamed, yet confident in His love as I go to Him and ask His forgiveness. He helps me start again, helps me to learn to go farther with Him in His infinite world of freedom…instead of remaining weighed down and stumbling over earthly things…

There is a measure in everything. There are fixed limits beyond which and short of which right cannot find a resting place.
Horace (65 BC - 8 BC)

The evil implanted in man by nature spreads so imperceptibly, when the habit of wrong-doing is unchecked, that he himself can set no limit to his shamelessness.
Cicero (106 BC - 43 BC)

Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped.
Elbert Hubbard (1856 - 1915)

Lamentations 3:21-23 (NAS) ? This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

Romans 7:19-21 (NAS) For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.

Hebrews 4:15-16 (NAS) For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

John 8:36 (NAS) "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”

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