My 6 year old is a determined and headstrong girl. That’s not always a bad thing. I’m sure that she will not be one to succumb easily to peer pressure. But I don’t want her to be so headstrong when I’m trying to give her instruction. We recently had an exchange that went like this (and yes, I wrote it down word for word because I did not want to forget it):
Daddy sees Daughter jumping on the couch.
Daddy: “Please don’t jump on the couch like that.”
Daughter: “How should I jump on the couch, then?”
It was one of those parenting moments where simultaneously you want to laugh and punish the child (please tell me I’m not the only one with moments like that!). Here’s the thing – she wasn’t being a smart-aleck or mouthy. She was completely sincere in her question. Daddy said, “Don’t jump on the couch LIKE THAT” so I will have to find another way to jump that he will find acceptable. Cute, yes. But she missed my intent.
I know we treat God in similar ways. God tells us (through the Bible, our conscience, the Holy Spirit, a pastor – however…) that he wants our lives to look and be characterized in certain ways. And, rather than seeking his intent for our lives, we ask questions to get around his instruction so that we can keep doing what we want to do.
I was recently watching a SyFy show called Eureka. In the episode, a person went to the local therapist to talk through some issues. The therapist finally got upset with the counselee and said, “You already know what you SHOULD do – you’re just looking for permission to do what you WANT to do.”
Yup. That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it? Rather than honestly looking for God’s guidance and direction, we resort to looking for permission and blessing to do what we want (or already ARE) doing. In contrast, the apostle Paul writes in Romans 12:
Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
Paul says that we’ve got it all backwards! It’s not about finding a work-around to do what we want. It’s about changing what we want and who we are to be more like God and his character. We often approach faith with the attitude: “What’s the least I can do and still be a Christian?” That kind of question reveals that we have not surrendered to the idea that God’s ways are better than our ways – that God is God and we are not. The better attitude asks: “What is God like and how can I be more like him?” It’s about an inward change; about BEING. The more we are like him the better we will know him. The better we know him the more we will understand his will and actually want to make his will our own.
Then we’ll understand that he’s not trying to change the way we jump on the couch.
Chris Linzey is husband to Tené, father to the three most beautiful children in the world, movie addict (seriously, if it’s on a screen he'll watch it—doesn’t matter how crummy or low-budget), and a Navy Chaplain, currently assigned to Naval Air Station, Meridian. Chris has a deep desire to help people live lives of faith where the Bible is more than mere words on a page, but the way we live everyday. His undergrad and Master’s studies were in Biblical Studies and he focused on the New Testament (his mentor was a Gospel of Mark scholar). He went on to get a Master of Divinity (MDiv) in Pastoral Preaching. Follow him at @chrislinzey.