You Can’t Make Me

Cant Make MeWe spent a lot of time in the car when I was a kid. Hour after hour after day of nothing but road rolling on as we traveled the States, visiting churches and partners who supported my parents’ ministry in the Philippines.

We were good little missionary kids. The kind who whined and fought in the sanctuary while our parents set up for their presentation. And when we got back in the car, my mom would put our little brother between me and my sister as an attempt at keeping the peace.

So naturally, we would turn our focus on torturing him. First it was tickling. Each of us on one of his sides so he had no direction to lean to escape. And when the laughter became cries for help and our mom turned around and said, “You keep your hands off your brother!”… Then… Then the real torture would begin.

My sister and I would turn in silent unison and look at him. Just look, unblinking, with a hint of a smile. He would shut his eyes and start to squirm until he couldn’t take it anymore.

“You’re thinking about tickling me! Stop it!”

And we would whisper so only he could hear, “You can’t make me.”

I’ve matured a bit since then. Well, at least in some ways. (Although to this day my sister and I can make our “little” six-foot-two brother writhe and moan with just one wide-eyed stare.)

Life is more complex than it was back then. I have a wide variety of people in my world, people I love deeply, and I have very little control over them. I can make my kids do what I ask, but I can’t make them have a good attitude about it. In the long run, I can’t control their life choices. They could grow up to follow a very different path than the one I hope for them.

People are tricky, slippery creatures, and sometimes we do things that hurt ourselves and the people around us. We’ve all been there, on both the giving and receiving end of heartache. There have been times I’ve pushed people into uncomfortable corners. Betrayed trust. Withdrawn and hidden from the people who know me best. And when we’re wounded by the behavior of others, behavior we can’t control, it’s easy to feel trapped.

I didn’t choose this. I have no power to end it.

There have been times I’ve felt this way. Powerless. Overwhelmed. Confused and angry and hurting.

The truth is that in times like this, when it seems like we are powerless, we actually have the ability to make the most powerful choice in the world.

We can choose God’s heart.

When we have no way of fixing situations or changing people, we can still love. We can forgive. We can pray. We can lay down our aching desires at the feet of a God who picks up His robes and runs to meet us, the wounders and the wounded.

The people we love can run far and hide deep under layers of dangerous choices. We can stand, hands on hips, and fling angry accusations at the sky. We can question God’s love, tell Him we don’t deserve it, expect Him to get tired of our selfish defiance. We can live like we believe we can push God too far and stop Him from desiring us.

But He runs wild and passionate, catches hold and stares hard and whispers, “You can’t make me.”

“I can never escape from your spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the place of the dead, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.” ~Psalm 139:7-10

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