Growing up, I was the type of kid who always followed the rules. I was never one to break a rule just for the sake of breaking it. Nor was I one to push the limits with authority. I think that part of the reason for my mentality was my birth order. I am a middle child. I am a people pleaser and most definitely the family peace maker. For this reason, I was a stickler for the rules. In addition to that personality make up…I was terrified of getting in trouble. I mean terrified. I never wanted to even think about facing the consequences of even the slightest infraction. I remember once, in the 5th grade I got into “trouble” and was devastated. Our beloved Mr. Vernot was out that day, leaving us with a sub…four of us were going down to change into our cheerleading uniforms for that day’s basketball game. We followed our normal routine of leaving just a few minutes early…but the sub was not exactly privy to this routine and was pretty upset (according to the note she left for our teacher). Upon his return, Mr. Vernot issued the four of us lunch detentions. Based on my reaction, one might have thought I had just been sentenced to the electric chair. I was devastated. I cried and sobbed and pouted right there in home room. Looking back, of course, my reaction was ridiculous, but to me at that moment in time it was perfectly normal. I simply hated the thought of being in trouble. I was terrified.
Somewhere, deeply buried in my personality is the strong need to please people. I do not like the thought at all of letting someone down. The idea that someone may be disappointed in me or my actions haunts me at times. As I grew from a young child to a teenager, this fear of disappointing people and fear of consequences shaped my early Christian life. In my youth group it seemed the focus was always on staying out of hell. (This was most likely not always the focus…most likely my hypersensitivity to the topic has affected my memory). I had grown up in church my whole life…I had heard the “Good News” but to me the message I got was how not to go to hell. I was so scared of making any mistake at all for fear that I would die and go straight to hell. It used to keep me awake at night. For me, at this impressionable age, living for God was about following the rules and staying out of hell.
As I have grown and matured in my walk with Christ, I praise God that I have also grown in my understanding of the magnitude of God’s love and His plans. It is one of my greatest comforts in life to know that I don’t have to follow every single “rule” to earn my stay of out hell card. I serve a God who wants my love and faithfulness and who sent His son to die for me. I can’t ever “earn” that sacrifice. Nothing I can do to try and please God would ever be enough to cover the price Jesus paid for me. In Galatians we are told “So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” If serving God was all about keeping the law the there was no need for Christ to die for us. None of us could live up to all the “rules” in that none of us is perfect. But we don’t have to be slaves to the law…we are free based on our faith.
Romans 3:27-28 “Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.”
I still want to please God and live in a way that is acceptable in His sight…but that’s not what saves me! To a girl who has spent her whole life trying to “earn” acceptance and approval, this kind of love is amazing.
“I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.” (Philippians 3:9)
Making the decision to serve God and to seek His guidance in my life was the best decision in some many ways. God’s love has granted me freedom from past hurts, given me unconditional love, and peace beyond understanding. But most of all, God has shown the mind of mercy and grace that has allowed me to stop worrying about breaking the rules so that I can now focus on a life of faithfulness and service.