When I was in college, and dating my wife, we lived a few hundred miles away from each other. Being 19/20 years old, and in love, meant that I was very motivated to make the drive as often as possible to see her. This put me on the highways and back roads of Florida a lot.
One road, 301, cuts across and down the center of Florida and can shave a good amount of time off your total trip.
Except sometimes it’s not faster.
The problem is, you have to drive through a bunch of small towns and in each small town the speed limit drops to 35 mph, or less. On several occasions, I was stopped and ticketed because I chose to go “slightly” faster than the posted limit. I quickly learned that these small Florida towns rely on people like me for their yearly revenue. Towns like Lawtey, Waldo and Starke can barely be called a town, but have the nicest police cruisers you have ever seen. I also learned, that if you stick to the speed limits on 301, the trip goes a lot faster.
I have no problem driving 35 mph until someone tells me I have to drive 35 mph. Or, I have no problem driving 35 mph until someone is in front of me, forcing me to drive 35 mph. Worse than the small town Cops was the people who would drive through the small towns slower than they needed to. I always assumed they were locals, just out to mess with the people passing through. Or, maybe they just wanted us to slow down enough to see all the beautiful and wonderful things that their town had to offer. But why then, why, would they continue down the road going well below the speed limit even after we drove out past the far reaches of their town and back into 65 mph territory? The world may never know.
What does this have to do with anything faith related?
I think the Bible is kind of like that sign on the side of the road telling you how fast you can go. It’s saying, “Caution, please proceed no faster than this. If you do, you risk bad things happening.” The Bible tells us how to proceed through life. The information is right there, plain as day, just like on that sign. Each of us have to choose whether we are going to drive the speed limit, or not. When we do, the trip should be fairly smooth. There is still a chance you are going to run into trouble, but if we follow the signs, then we should know how to make our way through the trouble. When we decide we want to go faster; when our own personal speed limit is the way, then we have to accept the consequences of that decision.
As believers, we must be willing to let people choose to speed. We can warn them; we can flash our lights at them and remind them of the limit, but we cannot make them drive the speed limit. That little old lady that gets in front of you and decides that 30 mph is the fastest we should go, yeah, she is religion. She is taking that sign, putting her own limits on that, and then forcing it on everyone else on the road. She takes away the choice we were given as a gift because she thinks she’s doing us a favor.
But really, what I see, are generation after generation of people who equate religion to faith. They think the God and the church building are synonymous. They think the heavy robes, and tall hats are what the Bible is all about. They think that being a Christian is knowing what to say in response to a priest during mass and when to kneel, sit, stand. And worst of all, they think that being a Christian is following a set of rules that if broken will send us straight to hell.
Faith is about choosing God out of love. Faith is about believing in something bigger than yourself, something you can’t see, but that you know beyond the shadow of a doubt is there. Faith is about trusting that God, the creator of time, space, and matter, knows what he is doing. Faith is about understanding that you aren’t perfect, that you can never be perfect, and that no matter what you do, you can never make anyone else be perfect.
Religion wants to control you. Faith wants you to be free.
Those speed limits are posted because the one who created the road knew the risks of what’s ahead. We may not always agree with his assessment, we may not always understand it, but in the end, we will find out how right he was. The limit does not confine us. It doesn’t hold us back. It frees us to enjoy the journey.
Sometimes I wonder if our forefathers came to America not for freedom of religion, but rather for freedom from religion.