Rules vs. Relationship Hero Image
Rules vs. Relationship Hero Image
Oct 11, 2013 / 4 min

Rules vs. Relationship

The Porch

By Adrianna Daniels

I always thought of myself as a pretty good girl. I tried to do what was right, not to please God but because, “that’s what my mama told me to do.” Going to church in Abilene, Texas, I learned the three big wrongs: Don’t have sex, don’t cuss, and don’t disrespect your elders. I had those down, but I had a terrible habit of stealing. It didn’t violate “the big wrongs,” and it didn’t hurt my mom. In fact, I figured I was even helping my mom out with my stealing habit. I didn’t have to bother her with things she couldn’t afford to buy for me.

After my dad died, life became unstable. We moved to a different apartment every year, and I never had a steady group of friends. To make matters worse, my mom re-married a white man, our house got broken into, and we had to move to Dallas.

Life Change

I was 13 then, and I struggled with my identity. Culturally, I had to figure out whether I was going to be “black” or “white,” good or bad. I attended a youth revival, and the pastor preached about a God who had this standard that I didn’t meet, but still loved me and sent His son to die for me and cover my sin. If I believed in Him, He would forgive me of all my sins and I would have eternal life. My eyes were opened, and I realized it wasn’t about keeping my mama’s standard or being a “good girl.” I asked God to take control of my life.

I wanted to change, but I didn’t know exactly how to stop my stealing habit. I made a pact with God. I told him, “I don’t know how to stop, but if You want me to stop then I’ll get caught and I’ll stop.” In a short time, I was caught and arrested. It may have been silly for me to make a pact with God, but in that I can see how God answers even the smallest, sincere prayers.

Cheated On

I began to strive after the Lord, but I was still focused on following what I thought were the rules. Keep the 10 commandments, don’t have sex, and make sure you wear a skirt or dress to church. This continued into college and stirred a lot of frustration within me. I saw people who professed Christianity but did whatever they wanted, and I didn’t understand why I had all these restrictions. So, I chose to rebel. I did whatever I wanted. I partied and got into a relationship with the wrong guy. When that guy cheated on me, I experienced true brokenness.

I worked at a Kanakuk Kamp (KAA) that summer, and I remember listening intently to the pastor and him looking and pointing directly at me and saying, “You are the Bride of Righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). I broke down. I realized I had turned away from God and had not fully trusted Him with my life. Yet, He somehow still considered me the Bride of Righteousness. His promise in Jeremiah 29:11 to give me hope and a future still applied to me. I was hurt because I had been cheated on, when I was the one who truly cheated on God. I left Him for something less than what he had planned for me. And even after that His arms were still wide open for me. I realize this was him disciplining His child (Hebrews 12:6).

My Own Good

I always thought you saw people at church on Sunday and never spoke to them again until the following Sunday. Through Kamp and the college ministry at SFA I began to meet true believers—believers who lived by His standards, not because they were “rules,” but because they realized how great the Lord was and wanted to be His. They helped me learn that my true identity was not external, but in Christ as a child of God (Galatians 3:28). They weren’t entangled by man-made traditions that gave an appearance of holiness (Colossians 2:23). I saw the freedom they had and wanted it, too.

Rules without relationship equals rebellion. Even though I trusted the Lord early in life, I didn’t understand why I did the things I did. But now I obey because His love and grace spurs me on, and I realize all He says is for my own good and protection. He knows better than I do. Every day I must choose to trust His will over mine.