About this blog: Discussing religion, spirituality and values. About the writers: Amy Umble is the religion reporter for The Free Lance-Star. Janet Marshall is the religion editor for The Free Lance-Star.
Being told what to do is hard, but try to listen
BY HEATHER ABLONDI
I truly believe that the first person to use the phrase “terrible twos” had not yet experienced the joy of parenting a 3-year-old. A 3-year-old child can be just as stubborn and unreasonable as a 2-year-old, but with a greater ability to express opinions.
The other day, my 3-year-old daughter was playing in the kitchen by herself while I got some cleaning done around the house. As she chatted away to her dollies in the cutest sing-song voice, my heart swelled with love for her.
A little while later I realized she had become quiet, and as any parent will tell you—silence and toddlers are not a good combination.
When I went to investigate, I found that she had taken every napkin from the table and shredded them into hundreds of little pieces. Her behavior went from bad to worse when she defiantly refused to help clean up the mess she had made. In the process of being scolded, she looked up at me with her big brown eyes, stomped her foot and yelled, “Don’t you say those things to me!”
It wasn’t funny at the time, but looking back I have to giggle because I realize that we don’t really change much when we become adults. We don’t like being told what to do and we especially don’t like being told that what we have done is wrong. Nowhere is that fact more evident than in the Christian faith.
It is in our nature to gravitate toward what makes us feel good. The Christian bookstore best-seller shelves are lined with what could be considered nothing more than glorified self-help books. Churches that preach feel-good sermons promising wealth and prosperity are packed to capacity.
Isaiah’s description of the people of Israel from thousands of years ago can easily be applied to us today. “This is a rebel generation a people unwilling to listen to anything God tells them. They tell their spiritual leaders, ‘Don’t bother us with irrelevancies.’ They tell their preachers, ‘Don’t waste our time on impracticalities. Tell us what makes us feel better. Don’t bore us with obsolete religion.’” (Isaiah 20:9–10)
Ouch. I don’t know about you, but that one hurts. Like a stubborn 3-year-old I have stomped my foot at God and said, “Don’t you say those things to me!” when I am confronted by some sin or inadequacy in my life.
But when I read my Bible, I realize that God is not some cosmic killjoy up in heaven just waiting for me to mess up so that He can smite me.
No, just as a parent does for a beloved child, He tells us things that may be difficult to hear for our own benefit. He knows the pain our sin or inaction can bring, and because of His great love for us, He wants to spare us from those negative consequences.
In fact, He wanted so badly to free us from the consequences of sin that He sent His own Son to this Earth to pay the penalty. But Jesus was not the gentle, hippy-like, “Jesus Christ Superstar” figure we have made Him out to be. Yes, He loved all people and He accepted even the worst of sinners, but He also said some really difficult things—things that people then and people today do not want to hear.
In advising his young protégé, Paul told Timothy that, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
Just as I instruct my 3- year-old because I want her to grow up to be prepared to live a successful life, God instructs us so that we might be ready to do the work He has set before us. He also promises that we will be made complete—a desire that is woven into the fabric of our very being.
Instead of rebelling against the difficult instructions of the Bible, we should embrace them. When we do, we will live the life that God always wanted us to live. It won’t necessarily be easy, but it will always be good.
Heather Ablondi is a women’s ministry speaker and author who resides in Fredericksburg. You can contact her through her website, heatherablondi.com.