How It Began
I was only 15 years old. My fairytale varsity football player boyfriend of one month had just broken up with me. School was hard and my grades were slipping. Deservedly so, I was also getting in trouble with my parents for going over the texting limits and not studying enough. Feeling their reigns tightening on me and my personal freedom diminishing, I felt as if I was slowly losing control over the circumstances of my own life. Summer was fast approaching, and I was grasping for relief from the walls caving in on me.
I always saw adults pour themselves a tall glass of wine or open a cold beer after a long day, tag-lining the “harmless” catch phrase of “something to take the edge off.” What edge? The stress from the day? The pressure of life? That 12 ounces of liquid from your refrigerator helps make it better?
That exact perception which concretized in my memory was the one that shot through my mind when I was faced with trials in high school. I had never had a sip of alcohol before, but it seemed like a luring option. I knew that by the law I was technically not supposed to drink underage, and that my parents wouldn’t be happy. At the same time, everyone around me was doing it, and I wanted to experience this taste of freedom for myself.
What started with one weak and fruity drink at my friend’s house, turned into a few shots at a party the next semester, and before I knew it, that red solo cup was a staple to every party I attended. I liked the feeling of this newfound control of what I did with my life. The truth was that I also liked the social status that came along with it. The strict and early curfews set by my parents just meant arranging sleepovers with friends whose parents were far more lenient. This vicious cycle of sneaking around (both my parents and authorities), breaking the law, and lying, all for the sake of drinking, infiltrated the rest of my relationships and my general way of life.
Once I got into the habit of sneaking around, it was harder to be honest with my friends because I would rather disguise the unappealing parts of my life. It was harder to be honest with schoolwork because I knew the feeling of getting away with something all too well and the slight satisfaction that came with it. When it came to my true emotions, I could barely even be honest with myself since I was stuck on the merry-go-round of running from the hard truth. Dishonesty is a poison, and it penetrates all the good fruit at some point.
The relationship that suffered the most was my relationship with God. I couldn’t muster up the courage to talk to someone who I felt like I was disappointing. I knew underage drinking was not the best for me, but I didn’t know why. Why would God want to withhold something that could be fun and social? I wish my parents would have confidently, yet gently, told me why underage drinking is not God’s plan for me.
This so-called “freedom” is often the underlying theme of pop-culture songs, movies, TV shows, etc. In the words of the pop-princess, Miley Cyrus herself:
“It’s our party we can do what we want. It’s our party we can say what we want. It’s our party we can love who we want. We can kiss who we want. We can see who we want….Can’t you see it’s we who own the night?”
Sounds promising, right? Freedom is depicted as doing anything you could possibly desire. However, it is a lie that by exercising this “freedom” you will truly make yourself happy. And since I was searching for freedom, fulfillment, joy, and newness the escape of alcohol seemed to be the missing puzzle piece to my brokenness. Buying into the fake freedom, its true identity hiding beneath the surface, enslavement, was covertly revealed. Underage drinking is an exercise of slavery because of the social pressure that constantly follows it, the hazy line between being buzzed and drunk, and the pattern of dishonesty that is stapled to it.
To Abolish or to Fulfill?
In Matthew 5:17, 19-20, Jesus himself tells us:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven. I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
Then at the Wedding of Cana, in Matthew 22:21, Jesus says:
“Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
By this, Jesus means that God Himself wishes for every government to be acknowledged and obeyed by virtue of its existence, not because it meets our preferences. God’s wish is not for us to run rampage now that He is the ultimate authority. No, He wishes for us to respect our authorities that have been placed before us.
By choosing Jesus as our King, we are in submission to governmental authorities. And if they are not fair, God will be the ultimate judge of that, but it is our responsibility as Disciples of Christ to respect the authority the Lord has left for us (unless of course, the laws go against the moral law, which is a whole other topic). In the letter to the Romans (13:2), St. Paul said:
“Therefore, whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed, and those who oppose it will bring judgment upon themselves.”
Even St. Paul who, before his conversion, hated and persecuted Christians, knew the importance of authority. He knew that submission to the government is an expression of one’s submission to God. Therefore, whether we judge how fair we think the law is or not, it is not fair to disobey simply because of personal preferences. Whatever government fails to judge laws properly on earth, God will make right in the final judgment. So on earth, it is what you do with your body (and what you don’t do in some circumstances) that makes you a true follower of Christ. In Matthew 13:41, Jesus says:
“The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.”
Don’t we want to lead others to grace, peace, and joy? By underage drinking, we are consenting to a certain way of life that causes sin. And a natural consequence of sin is seeing God less – it strains the relationship. But to truly love is to die to self and trust in the Lord’s promises to be fulfilled.
If it is not God’s will that is guiding us under all circumstances, then it shifts to “my will be done,” which was Adam and Eve’s sin. The lie of Satan was and still is that God doesn’t want us to be happy. Satan tells us God gives us restrictions because He wants us to be miserable. “Ha, what does God even know?” And unfortunately, we fall for that. We think that the laws will hold us back and make us miserable.
But the beautiful truth is that God gave Adam and Eve rules to lead them to freedom to do what is right. True freedom has proven itself not to be doing what we want, but rather, the opportunity set before us to love and do good with the helpful hints that God gave us. It takes a lot of humility and maturity to be obedient – arguably more than dare deviling a keg stand.
I was 19 years old when I gave up underage drinking, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. It taught me more than I could have ever imagined about patience, self-control, and authentic joy. Above all, following Jesus instead of the world has been the greatest joy of my entire life.
This is the first post in the four part series Retrospect. For the next part click here.