As part of a sermon illustration, a pastor tells a story about a youth leader answering her phone at midnight to the sobs of a high school girl whose boyfriend has just broken up with her (again). Where does the pastor go from here? Does he point out the sacrificial love of the youth leader and their willingness to be used by God to help the hurting, day or night? Or does he tell another chapter of the story, about the youth leader who burned out after 6 months of ministry and the girl who never learned healthy boundaries in relationships?
Like just about everything else, that situation could go either way. Man, I hate that. How can I win the game if the rules change all the time? Or, to get to the real question behind the question: how can I do this thing (i.e. live as God desires) on my own? Derek Webb sums it up perfectly in his song "A New Law": Don't teach me how to listen to the Spirit / just give me a new law / I don't wanna know if the answers aren't easy / so just bring it down from the mountain to me / I want a new law.
I want someone to tell me exactly what the right answer is, exactly what to do when facing any given situation, exactly what is expected so that I can do the right thing every time. I am a Pharisee looking for a law that is clear and manageable. Something that makes me look good on the outside and keeps me standing on my own two feet. No need to ask anyone for anything. No need to listen to the Spirit. No need for grace.
Once again, Webb hits the nail on the head: What's the use in trading a law you can never keep / for one you can that cannot give you anything?
So can I give it up? The intoxicating high of feeding my addiction to status and signficance... the smug belief that I have the answers... the simplicity of reducing mystery down to something I can hold in my grasp and control to my benefit... I don't know. Probably not, at least not for good. But God I want to.