What to do When You Don't Want to be Good

According to Olivia, there are 65 days to her birthday. She made a good guess, but her uncle did the math and she’s off by seven days. She’ll turn the ripe old age of eight when the dog days of August arrive. Liv is the most free-spirited of my three grandchildren. I’ve always said that if she was a literary character, she’d be Ramona Quimby. 

The protagonist in Beverly Cleary’s, Ramona books has “an unlucky tendency to be involved in minor accidents that draw attention to her, and for which she feels she is often blamed. She tries to avoid these situations, but her efforts are sometimes frustrated by her bad luck.” (Ragbooks)

Liv has listened to Ramona Quimby so many times via audio book that she can probably quote it by now, but today I am quoting Olivia. A thought bubbled to the surface and proceeded out of Liv’s mouth as she waited at the bar for supper. It sounded like something Ramona might say:

“Sometimes, I just don’t want to be good.” 

I’m not sure what was frustrating her at the moment. As her grandmother I can attest that Liv is a good girl. There’s the occasional fussing with her sister, but that is usually kept within acceptable boundaries. Liv's tenancy toward being a bit rambunctious is what makes her special. I wouldn't have her any other way.

As I have written on the themes of fear and anxiety these past weeks, I'll admit my concern about the kind of world my grandchildren are growing up in is a trigger for anxiety. I know that sounds cliche’ for a grandmother to say such a thing, but it’s true. I am afflicted by what is common to man.

When I am up against fear, I know Scripture is the sword for the battle. Isaiah 43:1-2 has been a go-to source of comfort to many Christians over these past weeks as the institutions of our society quake under the pressures of the pandemic and social unrest:

“But now, thus says the Lord your Creator, O Jacob. And he who formed you, O Israel,
“Do not fear for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; 
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you, 
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor wil the flame burn you.”

This great passage reminds me that I did not arrive on this planet of my own accord. Nor do I have a relationship with my Creator apart from his drawing and calling. I am His. I was created to bring Him glory. By unimaginable grace, I am his friend.

And I arrived needy. I needed to be redeemed. Born of Adam, I entered this world a sinner, a person bent to do what I wanted at other’s expense. Like Liv, I didn’t want to be good. I wanted to be my own god even before I knew what that meant. Yet, God loved me. He redeemed me. The punishment for my sin fell on Jesus. 

When the Creator called my name at age eight, I was my own version of Ramona . His voice wasn't audible, but somehow I heard it. I felt no resistance. It surprises and comforts me that I readily accepted his invitation. This is what I remember most about the day I gave my life to Jesus. I wanted to love Jesus like He loved me. From that day on, I have been aware that I am connected forever to my Creator. I am not my own. By the grace of God, I live in the gift of eternal life.

"This is eternal life, that they may know You, 
the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:3)

To know Jesus is to have eternal life. 

My life has been so blessed, but it hasn’t been without challenges. The great metaphors in the passage above ring true. God has been with me in every trial---every moment of overwhelm, in the deepest darkest days of depression, in misguided financial decisions, and in worries over children. He’s been with me as I have cared for my Dad as he’s battled cancer and watched my mother struggle to find her words. Whatever I have faced, He has been my steady. As my friend Shelly stated with unwavering faith as she faced a cancer diagnosis, “We don’t know all the ways God is rescuing us on a daily basis.”

The Creator God is secure in himself, complete and committed to those who acknowledge and trust him. If you read my post from last week, I wrote about how God is for us. His nature is to rescue unless to do so would nullify a greater good. He saves us from so much---more than we can comprehend, yet He is secure in himself. His selfless love is so great that often He rescues without the need to be recognized. 

Maybe the perspective of years will give understanding to our reality as God's children? Could it be that the unrest on the earth is an opportunity to remember all the ways God has been with us? Will we choose to hold loosely the things of this earth turning our hearts heavenward so we grab hold of the ultimate rescue from death that is found in Christ Jesus? Will we believe this to be our truest reality?

Our only proper response to the saving acts of God is gratitude. It is important to acknowledge all the ways God has rescued us. An unexamined and thoughtless life does not honor God. Instead, we can bless the Lord for his goodness to us:

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, 
And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons your inquities,
Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.
Ps. 103:1-5

You and I are every age we've ever been.The little girl I was at eight lives on, but time has presented a wealth of understanding concerning God's presence with me. As I think to the future, to the days ahead for Olivia, Naomi, and Cade, I know I do not need to fear. The Creator God has not changed. He reigns supreme over time and history. He holds the past and future. Most importantly, He is with us now. 

Lord, Bless you! And thank you for being so generous in your love. Help me to live aware of your care for me even when life upon the earth is difficult. I am yours! This great truth holds me steady as the earth quakes. Thank you for all the ways you have rescued me. My life is full because you have chosen to give what matters most. I will not fear because I know you are with me.