Ask our three children right now what their favorite foods are and you’ll get three different answers.
Joshua will tell you that it’s BBQ Chicken Pizza. Not sausage; not pepperoni; not cheese. BBQ Chicken. And he will eat the whole thing.
Andi’s palette is perhaps a bit more refined. She’s likely to answer that her favorite is some kind of cheese or hummus.
And Christian? Well, he’s a milk and French fries man. Almost exclusively.
Ask them, however, what their least favorite food is, and you’ll probably get the same answer: fish. It doesn’t matter whether you douse it with ketchup, mustard, horse radish or chocolate – fish is a no-go at our house. That’s not to say they won’t eat it. They will. They’re good kids like that; I could sit down and tell them that they must before they leave the table, eat the required three bites of fish. And they will, eventually choke it down, mostly without complaint.
But imagine this. What if I came to the table one evening and did not say to the kids, “Eat your fish.” What if instead my command was this: “Enjoy your fish.” That would be a different kettle of, well, fish.
This is a command they cannot complete, no matter how badly they want to. They could will themselves to eat they fish; they cannot will their love of it. In fact, in order for them to be obedient to this command from their father, they need something internal to change. They need more than mere will power; they need new taste buds.
And therein we see, once again, why the message of the Bible is not primarily “obey God.” It is, in fact, that you cannot truly obey God, for what God requires is simple and crushing at the same time. The God of the Universe pulls up His chair beside ours and looks at us and says, “Love Me. With all your heart and with all your soul.” And grit our teeth as we might, and obey a few external obligations as we might, and conform our behavior in some minor ways as we might, we cannot ultimately do the one thing God requires of us.
To love Him.
That means that the goal of life is never a better version of yourself, for a better version of yourself is still, in the end, that same kid who can choke down but never love the fish. In the end, no manner of effort will aid us. We need something deeper than resolve to occur. We need to be made new. From the inside out.