My son was driving me home from the store yesterday. The road is under construction, so we had to go several miles the wrong way to a turnaround before we could head home. There’s a little dirt ingress/egress road through the site for the truckers to use during the day, which is clear and level at night. As we passed it, my son grumbled, asking why he couldn’t just turn there. Then he said something that struck me: “Why can’t I ever have any fun? Why do I have to listen to all your exploits and not get to have any of my own?”
Those are good questions, my son. And I have no good answers. Bouncing illicitly through a construction site in the family Suburban definitely qualifies as an exploit. As long as we don’t get caught. The rule is clear: a gutsy move is one in which you emerge unscathed; otherwise, it is a stupid stunt. I had a blast when I was his age, and many of those temptations still lure me. I mean, why do they put redlines on tachometers, if not to find out how fast the car goes when you hit there? The coolest part is seeing that the speedometer was already pegged before you hit the yellow. Geometric progression becomes really fun to learn when you’re figuring your own speed.
But I can’t do this anymore, as much as I want to. Because I’ve come to realize that every law is instituted by God for my good. I used to think the laws didn’t apply to me, because I knew my car and was a good driver. It’s the idiot drivers who need speed laws. Over time, I came to realize that I really didn’t respect anybody’s authority over me.
I can’t believe I called myself a Christian. I used to pepper my cussing with His name because it had more impact that way and blatantly did what I wanted to do, assuming that Jesus died to do away with hell. That would be really convenient. I went to church every Sunday, sang in the choir beautifully (Easter solos were my favorite – I know God was pleased with those!) and kept my car clean like a good citizen. Of course I talked behind people’s backs and plotted evil on my brother, but everybody does that and he deserved it.
I noticed one day that hell wouldn’t be described vividly in several places in the Bible if it weren’t real. And it honestly scared the daylights out of me. It was clear who was going there, and I fit the mold.
Just like Pinocchio, I was going happily down the road to my own demise. It didn’t seem bad at first, but the further I went, the more unhappy I was. I couldn’t believe it was my attitude of selfishness that was really the problem. As I did everything for my own gratification, I was contributing to everything I gripe about in the world.
I could be a proud Pitbull, scrapping for every morsel I get in the world, or a humble St. Bernard, searching out lost souls to give sustenance and a lifeline. My ego wants to be the Pitbull, wearing the studded collar and strutting to the forefront of every gathering, but what did I have to show for my accomplishments? Exploits and carnage?
It took a lot of reading before I finally saw the words of encouragement. While I deserve the judgment I saw, Jesus has taken away the condemnation I deserve. I still think about doing what I shouldn’t, but for whatever reason, I no longer do those things. He has saved me from myself. In putting others ahead of myself, I am no longer part of the problem; I am part of the solution. And for that, I am grateful.
So we will not drive through the construction site and knock over the barrels, fun as that might be. It makes the contractor’s job that much harder. It adds cost to the taxpayer’s burden of paying for the job. So while nobody noticed me quietly drive to the appropriate turnaround, I did it out of love for my Lord and His people.
Maybe God directs the placement of stupid road signs just to test if we really will obey Him. If I claim to love and appreciate Jesus and what He has done for me, then I will do what He asks and more to show that my love is genuine. I will teach you likewise, my son. And as we obey the totally irrational, we show our love for Who gave us the freedom to choose in the first place.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matt. 22:37-39)