When I was six years old, I had very specific boundaries determining where I could and could not play on the sidewalks in front of my house. I could go two houses up and two houses down from my house in our neighborhood. I was NEVER allowed, under any circumstances, to cross the street. Plain and simple. Those were the rules. I can still hear my mom’s voice, “Remember your boundaries!” as I ran out the front door, letting the screen door slam behind me.
My 8-year-old brother on the other hand, was allowed to go FOUR houses up and FOUR houses down. I admired my big brother greatly, and I just never thought that was quite fair. Why was he allowed to roller blade just a little farther than me and have a little extra fun? Surely these rules were out to get me. After all, I was JUST as capable as my brother. (Ha)
Taking it back a few years. My siblings and I circa 1996.
One day my brother and I were playing outside when a neighbor boy came outside to join us. Normally, this would be exciting…one more kid to play with! But not on this day. My brother and this friend (who did not have the same boundaries as us), decided play ONLY in the area that I was NOT allowed to play in, but still in the boundaries my brother could play in (I know, it’s mean, but that’s beside the point). So I sat on the sidewalk crack that kept me from fun saying, “Please, pretty pleases, c’mon guys, come play over here with me too!” For those of you wondering, that doesn’t work for older brothers. He somehow thought it was funny.
So I decided to internally weigh out my options. I looked back at the front door and noticed the door was shut.
Perfect, mom won’t see through the glass.
But if mom does find out, I will be in so much trouble.
Well, I’ll just go and play for a little bit and then she will never know.
I talked myself right into it. I went and played with my brother and his friend out of my boundaries. Once I decided that it was long enough, I went inside my house and immediately went to my mom to give her a BIG hug. You know, because she deserved it (and maybe I felt a little shame inside). Then the dreaded question came:
Mom: “Alyssa, did you play outside of your boundaries?”
Me: (thinking ‘how in the world does she know EVERYTHING?’) No.
Mom: Are you sure?
Me: (With a giant lump in my throat and a sick stomach) Yes.
Mom: I’m going to give you one more chance to answer this question. Did you play outside of your boundaries?
Of course I should have realized that my mom was on to something. She definitely saw me playing outside of my boundaries, but what came next blew my mind and I’ll never forget this moment. She told me that I deserved to be in a lot of trouble, but because she loved me, she would give me grace this time, because that’s what Jesus did for us when He died for our sins. I don’t think I really understood what grace meant until this moment. (Don’t be fooled into thinking that this was the parenting strategy my parents used every time I did something wrong, but this time, it worked!) I was shattered inside. I knew I had disappointed my mom (and Jesus) and I was ashamed that I let those sinful words enter my head to convince me to do what I knew was wrong.
The other day I was at a conference for women in leadership roles at their church. One of the passages we talked about was Genesis 3:1-7:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Genesis 3:1-7 (NIV)
Of course I had read this passage a million times in the past, but for some reason after I got home, I kept going back and reading it again. This childhood scenario came to mind.
I was just like Eve. Even at six years old I would have eaten that fruit in the garden. That little sinful voice in my head talked me into doing what I blatantly knew was wrong. I did it anyway, because I thought I was old enough and competent enough to do my own thing and forget about my authority. I thought I could do it and get away with it, just like Eve.
The devil can be so sneaky, creeping into our lives when we don’t even notice. Then suddenly, we find ourselves in a conversation with him. Just like Eve, we find ourselves weighing out the potential of benefits from the potential of consequences. What we should do is run, run as fast and far away from those evil thoughts as we can, but sometimes we don’t. We get caught up in conversation that we actually start to weigh out our options. This is where we get into trouble.
“I know I shouldn’t watch this television show, but one time won’t do permanent damage.” “I know I should tell the whole truth, but this little white lie won’t hurt anything.” “My husband will never find out if I reconnect with an ex on facebook.” Am I right? It’s tough to think about, but we hear of this happening all the time.
During the conference, the question was asked, “What is the one thing that ALL women want?” The audience answered out loud all at once, “LOVE.” That’s so true! Women want to be and feel loved.
In moments of temptation, it’s easy to think this: “Didn’t God say He loved you? “ “Wouldn’t He WANT you to have the best fruit? Would He want you to be like Him?” “If God really loved you, He would let you eat the good tasting fruit.”
Wouldn’t my parents want me to be able to have fun and play with my brother and his friend? If they really loved me, they wouldn’t give me these rules.
We are missing the point. God gives us boundaries BECAUSE He loves us.
“Because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Hebrews 12:6 (NIV)
Just like my parents loved me and gave me boundaries to keep me safe, God loves us and knows exactly what we need and why we need it. He doesn’t give us rules to hold us back from something, but to lead us into something better. As a six-year-old, I couldn’t understand why in the world my parents would restrict me from going the extra two houses up and down when it was just fine for my brother. I now realize they did this because they knew best, they knew that because of my age I needed to stay just a little closer to home.
God is like this too. We have to remember that while we may not understand the “rules” in the heat of the moment, we can be assured that He knows best and above all, He loves us.
Admittedly I would have eaten the fruit, I think all of us would have. My six-year-old self demonstrated this because I didn’t trust that my mom had my best interest in mind. Sometimes we don’t trust that God has our best interest, but He does. Since the fall, God has given us His Word and the Holy Spirit to teach us to live according to His precepts, to stay far away from things that go against Him. God loves us and is exactly who He says He is. My goal is to run fast and far from anything or anyone who tells me otherwise. After all, we all have a choice, just like Eve.