I'm not one of those kids who grew up in a church or had a dad as a pastor or anything like that. I became a Christian of my own accord around three and a half years ago. So even though I wasn't brought up with any sort of Christian habits or ideas or frames of mind, I grew into them out of what I was learning from my own reading/research and from beginning to attend church. One of the ideas I was presented with that I didn't really question that much (being busy questioning other matters and all) was the whole idea of punishment. The idea I conceived from implicit messages from some other Christians and from my own assumptions was that if you did something that was considered sin, if you did something that hurt other people, if you did something that was wrong, etc., God would keep track of those misdemeanors somehow and punish you either now or at some point in the future.
At some point in my life I decided that perhaps I was mistaken in this misconception, but I didn't really care or pay much mind to it. That is, until I came across this yesterday:
Jeremiah 2:19 = "'Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the LORD your God and have no awe of me,' declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty."
Reader, I don't know about you, but upon reading this and doing a little bit of research I've come to be able to paraphrase the first part as the following: God doesn't actively punish us. Rather, the consequences of our actions are what discipline us and cause us to feel disciplined or punished. The second part: God cares about us but will not impinge upon our free will to do what we want. He has an idea of what's best for us in the sense of what's good for us, but choosing to do something else is our own decision, albeit one that could be "bitter" or have undesirable consequences.
An indirect example and imperfect metaphor could be the following: One's choice to get very drunk is normally an exertion of free will, and the "in-the-moment" effects (at least so I've heard; I don't drink) are entertaining and fun. The after effects, however, could possibly include doing something you regret while being drunk, getting hurt, being hung over the next morning, etc., and they kind of sound like they suck and are reasons to not get so terribly drunk again.
I think this idea is a little more radical and a bit contrary to what people in the church tend to advocate, due to agenda-pushing and such. The thing is, it's a much more powerful idea and makes more sense.
I am confident in the notion that God never forsakes us, but rather that we are the ones who go around doing whatever we want because we are granted the freedom to do so, and meanwhile He watches us and pursues us, wishing that we would realize that the things He would rather have us do are much more fulfilling. I freely admit, though, to not being perfect and to straying all the time from what He would probably rather have me do instead of what I choose to do. When I start getting wrapped up in the "things of this world" as it were, or placing way too much value on things other than God, I usually end up wondering weeks later why I'm feeling so anxious or downright upset and unhappy with my life. Then it dawns on me that I've been neglecting my relationship with God, something that is irreplaceable and that fills me to the brim with joy and happiness and life. I feel like this verse was written for me, reminding me that every decision I make matters.
What do you think, Reader? How do any of these ideas sound familiar? What does this all mean to you?