Lately, I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m supposed to adhere to the will of God—beyond the cliché “because that’s what you do.” There are no doubt days when I feel sprung into the will of God, thrown into arms I’m convinced will catch me. But there are more days, especially lately, where I don’t think a cannon could shoot me toward what God wants for me. Partly, I don’t want to obey. Partly, I am afraid that I can’t. I don’t know that I have it in me—I don’t have the minimal strength needed to jumpstart my obedience. So I turn back into myself, deciding I’ll sleep till next spring when I try again to emerge from self-indulgence and defeat. The only time I gambled in Las Vegas, I was 15. I was with my friends walking through a high profile casino when I snuck under the exclusive rope—the one that keeps the young wanting to be older and the older wanting more money. I put my money in the slot machine and pulled the lever. Quarters poured out—and by poured, I mean there was a lot of clinking that provided change for a few loads of laundry. I moved on to one of those games that slowly pushes quarters off the ledge. Every time you add a quarter, it moves another quarter closer to your pocket. This game, of all the gambling options in Vegas, this stupid machine is the one that took all my money. It was casual at first: I’d drop in a quarter, getting this sense that I was almost going to win. It was some kind of false hope—that somehow my quarter would be the one to toss this machine over the edge. Somehow my little coin would buck the system and buy me a new pair of shoes. But, with each attempt, my frustration grew. I even hit the machine, trying to shake the quarters loose. When this attracted the attention of some security folk, I slipped to the other side of the rope. I’d invested the money I won back into the greedy system that gave it to me.
Disobedience is deceptive. Maybe not for most people, but for me, I still buy into it. I buy into the lie that there’s a way to beat the system. That I can make bad decisions and somehow profit from it. The lie that I can feed the dying cow and expect some kind of return. So, I keep putting money in it, thinking that the next quarter will win me the jackpot. I sacrifice my time, my integrity, my relationships, my family, and with each piece of my life and heart I put in, I think that this time, I’ll get what I want.
When I move against the will of God, when I pour into something God’s asking me not to do, I’m investing in a broken vending machine. I’m continually giving more and more and more and yet I’m expecting different results. Every time I speak in anger, every time I pull away from community, every time I choose unforgiveness, when I try to win at an image game, I shove a quarter into the black hole of self-destruction.
And for what? For the quarters to get close to the edge, taunting me, but never making it to my hand.
Obedience and disobedience require the same investment: our relationships, our choices, thoughts and actions—our lives. And both have high risk factors. If I say yes to God, who knows if I’ll be happy? If I say no to God, who knows how long the instant gratification will last?
There are days when pragmatism is enough for me, when I choose to walk away from the quarter machine because it’s illegal, or because I realize the chances at winning at such a game are slim. But there are times when even this isn’t enough to keep me from pouring myself into sin. There are times when logic can’t keep me from running into the place God has told me to avoid.
It’s these times that I need to remember I wasn’t made to play those games. It’s not an issue of what’s good or what I’m risking. It’s an issue of who I am. I wasn’t made to shove quarters into a cheating system. I wasn’t made to prostitute my resources and gifts to try to feed my own soul. I was made to receive what I need from the Author of life, not from my desperate attempts to maintain love.
Today, this truth brings comfort. Not because it erases the pain or the desire for what I can’t have, but because there is hope here. There’s hope in investing in obedience because I was made to do so. And today, that’s enough.