Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The "List of Rules" and God's Awesome Adventure for Our Lives

"God only presents two paths in this life- the straight and narrow and the path straight to Hell."

The bicycle "evangelist" had staked us out, following us down the winding sidewalk that led under the bridge. He continued to berate us, telling us how if we didn't turn from sin and pray with him right then and there, that we faced eternal damnation.

I didn't tell him the sack I was holding in my hand was full of hamburgers. I didn't tell him the reason I was walking under the bridge was to look for homeless people, to sit with them and bring them lunch. I didn't tell him I attend church every Sunday. The only thing I wanted to do was to run away from this red faced fear monger.

I was reminded of the time in South Padre Island.  We piled into a bus, the bus full of young Christians across the United States, spending their spring break to spread the gospel. I wasn't one of them.  I was just a college student, ready to spend a rowdy week at a college spring break destination and maybe catch a few rays at the beach while there. I didn't mind the missionaries on the bus because I am a Christian, and besides, it was a free ride. All they requested in return was to pray with them- so of course, I was down with that. Until I met The Girl.  The hateful Girl who turned me away from mission work and even certain churches for years.  I know I shouldn't have given her that kind of power, but the kind of "Christianity" she preached scared the crap out of me. She asked if I was a Christian. I replied 'yes.'  She asked me what kind of church I went to- I replied "Methodist." She asked me if we had windows in my church- I replied "yes." She then proceeded to tell me that she'd never heard of Methodistism, and that she was pretty sure I was going to Hell if I didn't convert to her denomination.

I don't operate on scare tactics.  People like the man and the girl above scare the living heck out of me, and I feel like probably the majority of people they comes across.  I don't believe in that type of evangelism, the whacking people over the head with the Bible until they submit (or pass out) type.

These types of experiences make me think maybe we've gotten it all wrong. Maybe our God isn't the kind of God who is angry, detached, sitting on a throne and waiting to catch us in sin so that He can punish us.

I used to think of Christianity as a set of rules almost.  As a list of "don't dos" rather than "dos."  Don't drink, don't smoke, don't swear, don't get upset, don't show emotions, don't be anything other than perfect.  I even was a member of a small group that perpetuated these thoughts. Once the young ladies in the group were told not to wear black pants to church, because it was a "stumbling block" for the young men.   I was laughed at when I shared with the group that I felt God was leading me in a certain direction in my life.

The major thing absent in that way of thinking is the importance of an actual relationship with God.  I know this isn't the life that God wants for us, because now I know God a lot better.  He doesn't want to trap us in a little box, with a list of rules for us to memorize.  He wants to show us freedom and true happiness! Over the past year He's shown me, little by little, His true character. Not that it isn't a good thing to have guidelines as to how we maybe should live our lives.... but that kind of narrow minded thinking really misses the mark. Our God can't, and shouldn't be placed in a box. He created creativity! He knows how we tick, He knows the things that make us smile, He delights in surprising us.  He also delights in challenging us, and allowing us to step out in faith to reach a freedom that can only be known in Him.

So I think the "straight and narrow" isn't referring to a boring, outdated lifestyle devoid of all smiles and happiness.  "Enter through the narrow gate, For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13-14) I think there's a sadder meaning behind this.  I think this verse refers to the few people who have an intimate relationship with God- the lucky ones who walk close by Him, who walk down the narrow road that leads to freedom. The road that's full of surprises and adventures, birds singing, fragrant flowers- lush, green grass, and incredible, awe-inspiring, breath-taking views.... The path that leads to the destiny God's created for each of us.  The path that each of us can take- if we just take the time to let God into our lives.