Growing up the 2nd oldest of five kids, I mostly remember lots of noise. Screaming, yelling, laughing, fighting, crying; Noise. Loud noise.
But car rides were different. In the car somehow, some way, we finally shut up. I guess it was like the DVD affect. When we piled into that old station wagon, the radio would go on and we go silent.
Well once in a while it was a cassette tape from the library. Carly Simon, Kenny Rogers, Bonnie Raitt.
In fact I’ll never forget the first time I heard I Can’t Make You Love Me. I must’ve been in 6th or 7th grade. I was staring out the car window listening to the lyrics thinking,
“Oh my gosh. This is so horribly sad why won’t he just love her? And why does my mom keep rewinding such a sad song?”
Just kidding I don’t remember if she kept rewinding it. But I sure do remember that song well. I should ask her. I digress.
Nine times out of ten she turned on the radio. WMBI, 90.1, Moody Radio in Chicago. I heard a lot of preachers preach and a lot of teachers teach. This went on for years. I think a lot of what my mom was too exhausted to teach us herself, she trusted we’d learn in the car from that radio station.
I loved hearing Dr. James Dobson talk. I loved the sound of his voice. I always believed what he said. One unforgettable phrase he had on parenting always stuck with me: “Relationship before rules.”
In the Old Testament, not to over generalize, but an overarching theme with God is obedience; reverent obedience, diligent obedience, careful obedience. Obey, obey, obey. Be careful to obey.
One of the things that used to trip me up in talking to people about God’s love was when they would start going off on God’s rules.
Most people like to believe they’re in control of their own life. That they set the parameters and make the rules. That they have the power to make things happen, and they’ll find the resources or solutions to fix things when they fall apart.
‘I don’t want anyone telling me what to do Evie. Especially not God.’
‘I’m a grown up Evie. I can take care of myself.’
Um, so how’s that been workin out for you if you don’t mind my asking?
I won’t lie, rules overwhelm me, they always have. I get easily burdened by my inability to follow all the rules all the time. Sometimes so much so that I just go in the exact opposite direction. But that’s another story. Probably just the human race story.
This morning in our alone time, God brought that Dr. Dobson phrase back to mind just as I was beginning to feel overwhelmed by my shortcomings and overcome by my inadequacies.
Then He spoke this reminder to my spirit:
Focus on our relationship Evie. When our relationship is operating simply out of my careful pursuit of your heart, you won’t see any rules. All you will see is that I love you and I want the absolute best for you.
When I focus on God’s continual initiation of heart to heart conversations with me, it’s impossible to be burdened by commands. Because all I sense is His love.
Just like good ole Bonnie couldn’t make dude love her, God can’t make you love him. Well he could if he wanted to but he never will. It’s not who he is. It’s not the way he designed the human race. He will never force himself on anyone.
What he does desire more than anything though is to have a personal relationship with you.
And what you experience once you step inside that relationship is actually real deal freedom.
The kind of freedom your current freedom is petrified you might find.
Don’t let a few rules scare you. Those disappear as soon as you let him wrap his arms around you.
And if you need a reminder down the road like I do, that’s what the Holy Spirit is for. To guide you back into relationship.
The relationship where love rules.
“I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. Psalm 119:14-16