Sitting in Beef O’ Brady’s this past week enjoying my chicken tacos (while Hayden cheered on the Lions and Avery begged for more quarters to put in the machines filled with plastic toys lining the walls), I thought about the “no drinking badge” I’d so proudly displayed for so many years—how it had evolved over time and how I was now willfully throwing it away.
No. I did not get wasted.
I didn’t even have a drink.
I was born with an innate desire to please. I cannot tell you the source of this burning desire because I do not know. What I do know is that from as long as I can remember, I was carefully listening for those important words: what to do and what not to in order to please. I remember as a child getting in trouble for saying “I’m sorry” too much. Apparently, I was sorry for everything. How desperately I longed to please.
I think this may be part of why I totally missed the point when it came to loving Jesus. I heard whatever you do, “You mustn’t have sex before you get married or lightening will surely come down from heaven. Drinking is one of the worst of the worst sins and is as good as signing up for eternal damnation. Church attendance and bible reading are a must if you aim to please.” And so life, serving Jesus were all about the dos and the don’ts to me, although I was clueless to that at the time. I saw others through my own primitive worldview and looking glass. Drinking and sex = bad. Bible reading and church attendance = good. I was a grown woman with plenty of life shattering mistakes under my belt before it occurred to me that all of this—avoiding sin and loving the things of God—were all meant to flow out of a rich and vibrant, loving and living walk with God.
It turns out, that when I stepped away from behavior modification and control and started focusing on just loving Jesus with everything that was within me, loving the things of God and avoiding sin were much easier. All that rote “obedience” was pretty meaningless. For many years, I’d prided myself on certain things, worn them around like a “good little Christian badge.” One of them was that I’d never had a drink. Now, I’d failed the Lord in countless other ways, probably in a given day. I judged others every time I saw them drink or heard them cuss. But that was okay, because I was a good Christian. Need proof? Just look at my good little Christian vest. Here’s my newest badge: Never Had A Drink, right next to Don’t Watch R-rated Movies (Also drilled into me as a kid. You were clearly not saved if you watched them.).
Now, am I all about getting wasted while watching R-rated movies and singing Jesus tunes these days? No, but I don’t freak out anytime I’m around alcohol anymore. And I recognize that these all come down to personal convictions. You have personal freedom, and then, depending on the issue, there’s common sense and not offending your brother or causing them to stumble and a host of other angles to consider it from. But, one by one I’m peeling each of those badges, those proofs that I am a good little Christian off and I’m throwing them away. And instead, I’m running after Jesus with all that I have within me. And just like you, it’s in that place I find freedom like I’ve never known, a love that nothing in this world could ever compare with.
What badges have you been sporting on your vest?