Let's look at the facts. I don't drink. I don't smoke. I don't party. I don't sleep around. I don't steal. I don't kill. I don't do drugs.
Well, we can scratch those things off the proverbial list of things that darned teenagers do nowadays that I don't care to try.
Most of the time, we treat these kinds of things as if they are the only kinds of things that can ruin a life. These are the exact little vices, little pitfalls in the grounds, that you need to step around diligently. If you can avoid these, you are in good shape.
For the longest time, I would have agreed. Life is about avoiding bad things, and bad things are very clear and obvious. There is a very solid line that you do not cross. If you can stay on the good side of the divide, congratulations -- you're a bonafide good person, and if you also care to add the Christian label to it, then you are truly born-again. Put a Jesus fish sticker on the back of your car and call it a day.
Scripture doesn't really lend much to the idea that our existence is defined by negatives, though -- don't do this, avoid that. Commands that begin with "thou shalt not." These kinds of instructions appear throughout the bible, yeah, but maybe that's just because it's the first way God can get through to us with what His real intentions are. It's the baby food put in a blender before we grow the teeth to chew on real nourishment, true wisdom.
If a girl like me can obey these rules and still feel want for anything, then there has got to be some next step up from the ten commandments. And that's a sign that it's high time to start seeking the positive instructions we are given in plenty. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." Plenty of us, especially my fellow pastors' children, have sung this and read this and said this. It's probably one of the easiest to recite in a sing-song voice and the hardest to live in a gut-honest way.
We have trouble with the positive commands.
1 Corinthians 6 really fleshes this out for us: "'Everything is permissible for me' -- but not everything is beneficial. 'Everything is permissible for me' -- but I will not be mastered by anything." I choose to step away from land mines in my life, but the paths I can take from there are up to me. But not all of them are the path towards all light, all goodness, all beauty, all justice, all majesty, all glory, all things I could possibly desire and hope for. I am no slave to anything that lies at the end of any other path, be it acceptance, pleasure, accomplishment, relaxation, power, because they are all in the shadows cast by the light on a hill, and only one path gets there.
It doesn't make sense to just meander around aimlessly while simply abstaining from things that are obviously bad.
It's time to start chasing what is obviously good.
"Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her body? For it is said, 'the two will become one flesh.'" I am not messing with the giant sins that I've learned about both at church and from the elementary school D.A.R.E. officers alike. I'm not a person that does anything to put me in Mercy House. But there's no denying that I have lied here and there, cheated once in a while, thought cruel thoughts, and desired evil things before self-righteously telling myself that I am too good to go get them. I have dabbled in sin. If I've done it once, I am united with it. We are one flesh.
"But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with Him in spirit." My steps, be they directly towards the things that make middle-class white private school Protestant kids scrunch up their noses -- drugs, booze, sex, violence, theft, felonies -- or be they merely around this world in whatever direction, they are still around this world. If I lift my eyes, though, there is that light on a hill, that ultimate satisfaction.
It's not of this world. It's high, high above it.
It's time to start chasing at what's obviously good.
Don't just live by what is permissible, what gets me by without major criticism or rehabilitation. Don't just seek to make life better by avoiding huge regrets. Don't scrape by. Don't stand on the other side of that dividing line -- run from the line. Run as fast in the other direction towards Christ as possible. There is no other path but the one that leads to the top of the hill where my soul will at last find the eternal, perfect things that I thought I could find by wandering around below.
What it takes is the surrender, one by one, of the my "nominal" idols, the "little" things that master me. I can't just stand close to the line of an eating disorder and not move, or the line of deep depression, or the line of pathologically lying and gossiping about others to cover my own faults. I am still below sea level when I loathe the calories I consume or think a discouraging thought about one other person.
Every step away from the "permissible" things is a leap towards living unified with my Savior.
I don't know how I can write any of this not to sound so frantic and disorderly. I just yearn so much to flee far from all that smells like the pain of this world and cling to the fresh robes of the Lord.
All I know is that the first step is already known to us: do not. Do not be afraid.
Prepare to take on the heart of one who is ready for real nourishment: be. Be courageous.
For the Lord God will be with you wherever you go.