(Content adapted from my new book Learning to Breathe: How to Cultivate a Life-Changing Relationship with the Holy Spirit)
When my kids were small, they often resisted putting on their shoes whenever we left the house. Shoes are like kryptonite to small children. Most parents have experienced this baffling phenomenon. Children know that you’re in a hurry, so they take a gamble that you’ll let them go out barefoot rather than risk being late. If a parent routinely gives in to this sort of toddler terrorism, however, the behavior only increases. Like many parents, my wife and I would usually tell our kids something like this: “Child, I realize that you hate your shoes with an irrational but very real passion. Nonetheless, you must put them on to go to church. We can do this the easy way or the hard way.” The easy way consisted of the child willingly putting on her shoes. The hard way consisted of one parent holding the crying child while the other parent jammed the shoes on her feet against her will.
What I failed to realize at the time was that the easy way is a myth. There were only two hard ways. The way of obedience was hard, because our strong-willed child had to submit her will to her parents’ authority. The way of rebellion was also hard, though, for more obvious reasons. And it was hard on parent and child alike. When we are forced to choose between submission and rebellion, there is no easy way.
Likewise, there is no easy way when it comes to our walk with God. We have a choice between two hard pathways: obedience or rebellion.
The way of the Spirit requires us to submit our will to God’s authority on a day by day, moment by moment basis. Over time, the Holy Spirit slowly transforms us as we arrange our lives around knowing Him. The way of the flesh leads us to estrangement from God, while the way of the Spirit leads us to life and peace with Him. Both ways are hard, but only the way of the Spirit leads us to a life of meaning and purpose.
Is your life characterized by the fruit of the Spirit or the deeds of the flesh? Which voice do you find yourself listening to most often: The Holy Spirit, or the desires of your sin nature? Wherever we are on our spiritual journey, God is calling us to listen to His voice, every moment of every day, as we seek to be transformed more and more into the image of Jesus.