Freedom does not mean the absence of constraints or moral absolutes. Suppose a sky diver at 10,000 feet announces to the rest of the group, “I’m not using a parachute this time. I want freedom!”
The fact is, a sky diver is constrained by a greater law– the “law of gravity.” But when the skydiver chooses the “constraint” of the parachute, she is free to enjoy the exhilaration.
God’s moral law works the same way. They restrain, but they are absolutely necessary to enjoy the exhilaration of real freedom.
“Maya sweetie, please sit on your bottom,” I called to my baby girl as we were walking with the stroller through the NYC crowds. I could see her trying to stand up like a big girl and I imagined her toppling over in the street into the hands of busy strangers and tourists.
She looked up at me and smiled, sat down on her bottom, and then stood back up again on to her feet.
“Maya, listen to mama please,” I said again. She sat down only for a moment, only to rise to her feet again beaming.
“Listen to mama and obey my voice.” I said it a little more sternly this time, and when she did not obey, I proceeded to strap her into the stroller. She whined for a bit before realizing it was no use.
I’ve been saying it a lot lately. “Listen and obey my voice.”
When I say it, I often wonder. I wonder how many times God does the same thing to me? How many times does He ask me to ‘sit on my bottom’ and I continually rise to my feet? How many times must he ‘strap me in’ for my own good?
When we first moved to the pacific northwest, I was jobless. We were newly married, celebrating our one year wedding anniversary in our new apartment. We were excited to be on a new adventure and eager to plant roots. We wanted to buy a house, but without a second income, we couldn’t qualify for a loan. While David was traveling (he is a field traveler for an automaker, so his job takes him all over) during the week, I’d be online at the MLS listings and on Zillow looking at all the available homes in the area. Sometimes I’d even go for a drive and just look for the ‘for sale’ signs in neighborhoods I liked. I’d never owned a house before. While David was old hat at the buying property gig, I was a complete property virgin in every sense of the HGTV show! I was excited at the possibility and dreamt of making a house a home.
Then one day I saw it. In a cute little neighborhood called “Columbia Heights” I found the house.
I went online and quickly realized it was a short sale, but it was nearing the end of that crazy process. I knew from doing a little research that short sales are usually a nightmare. While I didn’t know exactly when it would turn over to a foreclosed home– therefore making it a simpler process to go through to buy, I was excited. I remember being so excited about this house. We prayed that at the right time, God would lead us to the right home to buy. And I secretly hoped it would be this house. 🙂
But I still didn’t have a job. Without a job, no loan… Without a loan, no house. I prayed all the time that God would lead me to the right job. That the timing would be His, not mine. I was dying of boredom sitting at home with no friends, family, church, etc… And one day, a small company in Lake Oswego, Oregon called me in for an interview.
Let’s just say it was purely divine that I got this job. This company was (is, I should say) run by a Christian businessman who is of the utmost integrity and runs the business in such a way. While not perfect, and while not everyone employed shares the same beliefs, the three and a half years I worked there were a gift. Thank you Allan! 🙂
Anyway, the CRAZY TOWN part of this story is that on the very day I received a letter in hand with a job offer from this respectable company, the house I was in love with became an available foreclosed home. We called our realtor and put in an offer immediately.
And I knew. I knew it was from Him. I knew He was opening the floodgates of heaven and pouring blessing on us. I could feel it, I could see it. And you know what?
I threw it back in His face. I said “thanks, but no thanks.”
Okay well I didn’t really say that. But looking back, I basically could have said those words. Because a few days later, we pulled the offer and made another offer on a HUGE beautiful house in a better zip code that was more expensive, more house than we could ever need and you know what? It was a short sale. I know. What were we thinking?!
Let’s just say that we never got the big beautiful short sale home. After six months of waiting for it, we had to walk away because the bank said there was a huge investigation on the banks involved and paperwork was lost and it could be years before things would resolve.
Listen and obey my voice.
That was definitely a time God had to ‘strap me in’. When I reflect on that time, I can’t believe myself. We prayed for the right job, the right home, the right timing. He gave us exactly what we asked for when the timing was perfect. And I said no?! Can you believe I said no?! I get irritated with myself when I think about it!
But God’s grace is sufficient; it’s perfect actually. We began looking for homes closer to my job in Lake Oswego and found an adorable home just three miles from my office. It was only five miles from the church we would become involved in and love. It became a place of movie nights, bible studies, baby showers, wine parties… People. It was my office for the time when I would work from home a few hours a day when Maya was a newborn. It was where I learned to paint kitchen cabinets and install hardwood flooring! It was where I found out I was expecting Maya. It was an incredibly joy and we both loved that house so much. We miss it. God’s grace covers. It covered us completely. I threw a house in His face and He blessed me anyway. I shake my head because I just can’t understand this God who loves me so radically.
Listen and obey my voice.
Our house story has been an Ebenezer rock in our marriage. We look back and want to be more aware of obeying. Of listening to His voice. Of being connected to Him through His word and prayer so that we know when he is telling us to sit on our bottom! Undeservedly, we’ve experienced the grace of being ‘strapped in’ but know He desires for us to listen and then obey.
Just like the skydiver, I want to use God’s parachute to experience ultimate joy and freedom. I know God can graciously allow the skydiver (me) to land on a perfect pillow of softness, or to suspend the law of gravity for a moment while I come to my senses, or to miraculously cause me to gently land on my feet. But how much better is obedience?
But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. ~I Samuel 15:22 (emphasis added)