“When do you think you’ll get here,” read the text from Jonell, my sister-in-law. I carefully watched the road curving before me on the last stretch to my family home. She texted again: “Continuing texting, put on some make-up and drive like hell.”

Exactly. I smiled and slowed down. Give me rules and I’m likely to do the opposite.

I know, right? You get it. Well, not all of you do because some are helping to rein in some of us who have rebellious attitudes and want to do everything but follow rules. Rules have their place, but rules without relationship lead to rebellion.

I follow God because I know He loves me right where I’m at and not where I should be because, frankly, we’ll never be where we should be. This Earth experience is rough, but it’s not our final destination. Earth is the bus stop. Heaven is our home.

Knowing Christ in a relationship means we understand there’s a God who loves us no matter what or who we are. He may be heartbroken over some of our choices, but nothing we do or don’t do will cause Him to reject or stop loving us.

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Debbie Griffith
Debbie Griffith

God became flesh in Jesus. Really people! He was fully God and fully man, experiencing everything we’ve ever had to go through. But He gives us this ultimate gift of restoration. Our sin separates us from Him. His blood pays the ransom demanded for our sin if we accept it. No more separation from God.

He comes back to life so we may choose life too … Freedom baby. I may drive like hell, but I’m taking the highway to heaven.

There’s the hope of heaven in my heart where real freedom and living begins. We don’t become angels and sit on clouds playing harps. That would be hell.

Christianity is the only religion where God loves us even with all our junk and mistakes. He loves the liars, cheaters, addicted and immoral. He loves you and me. (Romans 8:1-2) But because God is holy, He must punish sin. Yet because God is loving, He didn’t want to punish us. On the cross, He satisfied both the holiness and the lovingness of God. He offered a gift that we shouldn’t refuse. Mark Twain had it right, "Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in."

That doesn’t mean we can ignore what God asks. He gives us, ta dah, the Ten Commandments, not the 10 suggestions. But it does mean that God’s expectations are much freer than the stinkin’ rules religionists want to put on us. “My yoke is easy, My burden is light,” says Jesus.

Just as I was thinking on this, one of my best friends from junior high called. I hadn’t talked to her in years, but we picked up where we left off, talking and laughing like we just spoke yesterday.

Nora is the only one who calls me Doobie and the one who can sing perfect harmony with me on “Going to the Chapel.” Nora and I went skinny dipping at 14 in the middle of the day, jumping off a floating log at the resort I grew up on.

My Nora. I started talking to her about love and other stuff and we got to the part of the conversation where I asked her if she was in a relationship. “No, I’m single again,” she said. It was another “Relation-s@#$,” she said.

“What kind of name or title do you prefer,” I asked.

She said, “Nora,” and we both laughed. Then she said, “I just might say, ‘I play for the other team,’ or ‘I’m Lesbianese.’”

I love Nora. I do. I called her again the next day and we couldn’t stop talking and laughing. It’s refreshing to hear someone in their late 40s, like me, talk about love, life, freedom and being REAL. A lot of times on social media, you see these young peeps talk about freedom for anything and everything and I think: “You came out of the womb with a cellphone and the ability to search for everything on Google. You have the philosophy that EVERYTHING is OK. What do you really know for yourself?”

Nora and I don’t have to believe in the same things, but we believe in each other and we really do love one another. Right before Jesus went back to heaven, He said, “I give you a new commandment. Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” (John 13:34)

As I sat on the floor in Target talking to her on my cellphone I said, “Nora, you’re not going to change something in your life because I say you should. No!” I won’t either. But Nora and I can both be free and authentic with one another. I want it, you want, we all want to know real love and real freedom, which comes from having a relationship of real love and not religion.

My mantra is: “Be ye fishers of men. You catch ‘em, He’ll clean ‘em.” You catch people with love and accepting them right where they’re at and let God take them after that. I am not their judge. I am a fellow traveler.

Love God, love others and let God do what He does best – meeting everyone right where they're at and no matter who they are or what they choose. Real love never fails. Christians without love are just annoying.

Nora said to me, “I know there is a God because when I was at the very bottom, He was there to lift me up.”

Not far away there’s someone who is afraid and needs our encouragement and our time. Late author and speaker, Brennan Manning, wrote, “One of the most healing words I ever spoke as a confessor was to an old priest with a drinking problem. Just a few years ago, I said, ‘I was a hopeless alcoholic in the gutter in Fort Lauderdale.’”

“You?” he cried. “O thank God!’”

When we bring a smile to the face of someone in pain, we have brought Christ to them. We define ourselves by our response to human need. The question is not how we feel about our neighbor, but what we have done for him or her. We reveal our heart in the way we listen to a person, speak to the person who delivers mail, bear an injury and share our resources with the needy.

LOVE … It’s the answer. RULES and RELIGION, that’s not the answer. Follow Jesus. He’s real, He’s fun, He IS love.

I love reading about Sister Mary Michael O’Shaughnessy who had a banner in her room, which said, “Today I will not should on myself.” We don’t have to be someday else. Drive out hell by living loudly in love for others. Everything changes and you most of all when you live a life of love (Ephesians 5:1-2).

I love my life. There are challenges, but there is love and there IS God and it’s all worth it. You SHOULD know you are dearly loved, just as you are at this very moment. Don’t “should” on yourself.

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You,” wrote Dr. Seuss.

This column is a regular feature of the Detroit Lakes Tribune's monthly Faith page. Debbie Griffith is a Detroit Lakes-born speaker, radio personality and writer who now resides in International Falls, Minn.