In 1998, Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor” could be heard on almost every urban station across America. The opening line, “It could all be so simple, but you’d rather make it hard”, was an instant thought provoker, conjuring up images, and “what if’s” for anyone who had ever had a dysfunctional relationship. Why did love, a thing that seemed to come so easily, have to be so hard?
I would listen to her amazing vocals, and lose myself in the lyrics. “Tell me who I have to be..to get some reciprocity.” Selfishly, I’d listen, vibing, and understanding, while casting all the blame on other parties, never myself.
I wanted the same love, and commitment to love, that I thought I was putting out there. And, who could blame me? No one expects to make a deposit, and never be able to, at some point, make a withdrawal. It’s just not logical human thought. But, it is also illogical to think that only one person in a relationship is at total fault when problems begin to arise. It takes two.
“Care for me, care for me. I know you care for me.” Caring was never the problem. I would sit, and listen to that song, letting waves of grief, and love, and loss, pour over me. Oh, the hours I spent trying to figure it all out: What am I doing wrong? How do I get this person to understand? How much of myself am I gonna have to lose before I get back what I am putting in? Talk about driving yourself crazy.
“Is this just a silly game that forces you to act this way?” I had to have been kidding myself. See, this is how the enemy will trip you up in life. There I was, fortunate enough to have been taught the love of God from the time I was three years old, and life had put me in such a trick bag that I was confused about what love was, and how it was supposed to feel. Instead of blaming myself for being in sinful relationships, it became much easier to blame those with whom I was involved. And, I was enjoying that misery. Lauryn, and I, we had to figure that love thing out!
But, eventually the music would fade. And, I’d be stuck there, filled with Christian guilt, and the truth about myself. I wasn’t married. So, how did I allow myself to get so deeply involved in the first place. I knew the Bible, in which I had total belief, spoke against fornication. I had enough sense to understand that when the Apostle Paul wrote “For the wages of sin is death” in Romans 6:23, he was not only speaking in a literal sense, but a metaphorical one, as well. Sin was killing me, it was demolishing my heart, destroying my spirit. And, I was tired of dying.
I thought that once I turned my life over to Christ, all the difficult aspects of love would just magically disappear. That, however, was not the case.
Proverbs 13:15 of the KJV reads “Good understanding giveth favour: but the way of the transgressor is hard.” Although I was famliar with the Word, and I knew of Christ, sin had clouded my understanding. I had spent years in a sinful state, picking up bad habits. I left the church a carefree teen, and came back with more emotional baggage than I could handle. God, I had to learn, was not a genie. The real change had to come from within. I had to work on sanctifying myself. Now, I’m not saying that God can’t do it, clean up a person right away, miraculously, because He can. I’ve been blessed enough to witness it. I’m saying that in my life, I had to learn to submit to God wholly, and that meant letting go of some really sinful ways.
“…I die daily.” I had seldom thought of this passage Paul wrote to the Corinthians, now it had become a part of my daily thought process. If I were to become new, the old me had to first die out. Just as I had learned to sin, I had to learn again how to live a holy, and righteous life. “It could all be so simple, but you’d rather make it hard.” This time the lyrics reverberated in my soul for a different reason. Instead of just letting God teach me, and love me, and mold me, I kept trying to hang on to my old ways.
Old habits, they say, die hard. The old boyfriends would call, out of the blue. Those old flames always seem to call when you’re moving on, and changing your life for the better, don’t they? That’s the devil intending to disturb the plan of God. And, I’d fail. I would get nervous, and grab me a cigarette. Fail! If a person got under my skin, I would ” accidentally ” cuss them out. Another fail. And, the more I gave in to old behavior, the further away from God I seemed to get. And, that hurt me. It hurt me because I felt like I was hurting Him.
The world’s favorite line is “God knows your heart”. And, He does. We hear that, and we suddenly have a new way to justify what we know to be sinful behavior. But, James 4:17 KJV says that “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is a sin.” Miseducation, in any form, leads to nothing good. So, I’d be remiss if I didn’t educate you on this: God knows your heart, and He knows mine. He also knows whether or not we know the difference between good, and evil, right, and wrong, love, and hate. If you are not actively excercising faith enough to take on more of Him, and leaving behind that old, sinful you, you have misunderstood the true function of the Word. True repentance brings about change. And, just like the reciprocity that Lauryn Hill sang about, that desire to get back what one puts into a relationship, God is calling for the exact same thing! Stop making it so hard. “His yoke is easy…His burden is light”. It is sin that brings on the difficulty, my friend.