Wednesdays with Jillene: you didn’t tell me I couldn’t

Aargh. Did you read the title?

Some days the grand total of my response is: I can’t even… and let me tell you, hearing that phrase makes me feel like I can’t even…

Child: “You didn’t tell me I couldn’t.”

Me: …

Child: (looking triumphant)

Me: “What about the word shouldn’t, I’m sure I’ve said you shouldn’t.”

I’m gonna put it right out here that as a mom, youth leader, director, I don’t know, even just as a person… there are so many things on the list of Things I Didn’t Think I Had To Tell You Couldn’t Do…. Because it is common sense that you should know not to do them.”

  • Things you shouldn’t put in your mouth…
  • Stuff you shouldn’t say…
  • Places you shouldn’t go…
  • Stupid things you shouldn’t think about…
  • Crazy things you shouldn’t do…
  • Things you just never, ever, ever, should do…

“Yeah, but you didn’t say I couldn’t.”


Why do we have a fascination with pushing the limits, extending the boundaries, living outside the lines? So much so that we all too often step into the zone of things “you didn’t tell me I couldn’t do so I thought it would be fine.” What is wrong with doing what we know we can/should/are allowed to?

I know that is how discoveries are made, new inventions created and all the things like that. I also know about difference is personality types that leads some people to be submissive to authority while others look for ingenuity in decision making. And I recognize that there are times when we make the tough decisions to defy authority for moral or ethical reasons.  But I’m talking about all the things that, as people, we feel tempted (meaning we probably know full well we shouldn’t do them) to do merely because no one directly told us we couldn’t.

As much as that frustrates me to see this happen in daily living, it really gets to me that we do this with God. We get ourselves into situations that just aren’t right, putting ourselves or others at risk, worse yet, causing harm to our relationship with God or hurting others. And yet… what I hear us saying at the heart of our rationale is, “God didn’t tell me I couldn’t.”

No lie, not making it up, real words spoken to a friend of mine, “I’m waiting for God to tell me I shouldn’t be doing this.” As my friend heart-wrenchingly asked in response, “Did you wait for Him as patiently to tell you, ‘Yes. Yes, you can?’”

And that’s a good question, a really good question.

“It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission” might be a life principle that has assisted people in advancements in careers or in getting what they want… but, how does living our lives this way hurt our lives as disciples of Christ?

It seems quite ridiculous to imagine me standing before God saying, “You didn’t tell me I couldn’t.” Yet, how often do we say that with our actions?

God has shown us what is important, what we should be doing. With last week’s scriptures still running through my mind today:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8

37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Matthew 22:37-39

More than simply a list of things we shouldn’t do, scripture tells us about the heart of God for us. But what about the times you run into situations that you can’t clearly discern the will of God? How then do you respond?

Commit your way to the Lord;

trust in him and he will do this:

He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,

your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord

and wait patiently for him;

Psalm 37:5-7

There was this time at camp, my first year as a camp staffer in fact, when as a counselor I needed to get my campers back to their cabin at night. Problem #1: we didn’t have a flashlight. Problem #2: It was dark as could be, no moon, no stars visible, nothing to guide our walk back through the woods. Problem #3: scared campers do silly thing (like walk away or sit down and refuse to move).

Possible Solution #1: stay in the bathhouse and hope someone with a flashlight would come to rescue us. Possible Solution #2: Let those who thought they knew the way head out and hope we’d all make it to the cabin somehow. Possible Solution #3: stick close together and use what we did have to find the trail.

My girls gathered around me, held tight, kept quiet and we navigated the way using what little light we did have and what we could hear. What did sound have to do with it? Well, I remembered a key fact that helped us that night: the dirt trails were raked and if you stepped off the trail the crunch of the leaves was unmistakable. Step by step we slowly made the journey back to our cabin. When the girls relaxed as they realized this was going to work they started talking and we couldn’t hear the crunch. Then you know what happened? Yup, you guessed it, then we’d easily get off the trail. We had to stop, quiet down again and listen for the crunch.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

Just before this the prophet Isaiah said, “How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you.” I’d be lying if I said I always know what God wants me to do. But in those times when we don’t’ know which way to go, those times when we need to hear God’s direction, those times when we think God hasn’t told us that we couldn’t.

Hold tight to the Word of God to guide you and you have to be quiet enough to hear.






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