Never have I feared for my life more than the day we almost hit a donkey and barely escaped being flattened by a truck—all within seven seconds! It happened on a street in Cairo, Egypt.
Unless you’ve been to Cairo, it’s hard to imagine the road chaos, so let me paint the picture. The four-lane road holds seven lanes of traffic, because people are driving on both shoulders and have managed to squeeze an extra lane down the middle. But nobody stays in one lane. They weave and swerve chaotically across all lanes at will.
And pedestrians walk right through the middle of the mayhem, not bothering to look or yield! Motorcycles dodge cars as if they were in a carnival game. The squeal of brakes and honking horns are the repeating soundtrack. As if this weren’t enough, donkey carts join in the madness, sometimes stacked two metres high with palm branches that would break every single “Wide Load” rule in the book.
Just when my near heart attack had subsided from the truck merging into our lane, our driver slammed on the brakes to avoid the braying donkey that was carrying a mountain of chicken crates.
Until that moment, I hadn’t realised just how much I love traffic laws. Suddenly it became clear just how deeply I adore our Western system of speed limits, lane restrictions and the general forbidding of animal-drawn-vehicles on freeways.
Laws can seem stifling—until you attempt to live without them! Or until you realise just how much pain they can save you. It’s the same with God’s laws in the biblical Ten Commandments. They seem kind of stuffy, outdated and restrictive in this day and age, don’t they? Until you destroy your marriage, ruin your reputation with dishonesty or end up working 85-hour weeks without any time off. Suddenly, God’s laws don’t look so bad after all! In fact, they just might help you live a better life all round.
That’s exactly why God gave us His laws—because He was showing us the best way to live. He wasn’t trying to limit us. He wanted to help us enjoy life in the most pain-free way possible. Many people feel that the Ten Commandments deny us freedom. But when we take a second look at them, it’s easy to see that they actually add freedom to our lives. Everything God asks us to do for Him actually ends up immensely benefiting us! We’re able to become respectable citizens, protect the relationships that matter most and free up space in our lives and hearts to pursue our God-given purposes.
I know I want to live this way—but how can I? I try to do everything right, but often I end up failing and feeling discouraged. How can you and I learn to keep God’s laws consistently, so we can reap the benefits of this better way of living? There is a way and it isn’t just by trying harder (though that has its place).
Loving God’s Laws
The summer I was 12, my mum went to work full time and I was left in charge of caring for my three younger siblings. I changed nappies, prepared breakfasts and lunches, and managed nap-time schedules. I cleaned up vomit, refereed fights and tried to keep everyone happy.
My parents praised me for the incredible job I was doing and the maturity I exhibited that summer. But in all honesty, I hated every single moment of it. It was pure misery, slavery of the most cruel form, taking away my summer break when other kids were out swimming and building tree forts and riding their bikes in the hills—and I instead was put in charge of three spoilt kids who wanted nothing more than to disobey me all day. I vowed never to have children of my own! I couldn’t understand why anyone in their right mind would have babies on purpose and commit themselves to a life of such drudgery and servitude.
Then I had my own baby!
The work was not the same as it was back when I was 12—it was worse! My body suffered. My sleep did not exist. It was far more taxing than any work I’d ever done before.
But what I hadn’t counted on was the love. I never fathomed how much I would love this tiny human being. I loved my siblings, as any big sister would, but I had no idea how strong the love between a mother and child could be. Finally, I understood why people endure the drudgery and the chores and the messes. The love I had for my baby made it all worth it! I hardly even thought about the work, because I adored my baby so much.
Trying to keep God’s laws without having our hearts in the right place can feel like watching a house full of noisy kids all day—who would ever enjoy that? But love changes every-thing. When we have love in our hearts, things that seemed like awful trials can suddenly feel like joys.
And God offers to make this switch for us when He promises to write His law on our hearts. He said so right in the Bible: “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33). It sounds simple, but it’s actually a profound paradigm shift; an entirely new way of living.
Many of us have tried and tried and tried to do all the right things and keep all of God’s laws, but we fail miserably because our focus is on our actions.
However, when God writes the law on our hearts, He changes something deep inside of us. He creates a desire in our hearts that we didn’t have before. He grows love where love didn’t exist. His Spirit miraculously helps us to want to keep those “difficult” old laws and what’s more, we become able to keep them.
That’s what I want to be—a person who not only wants to keep God’s laws but who’s able to keep them.
How To Do It
So where do we get in line for this remarkable heart transplant that changes everything? Unlike real heart surgery, it isn’t a one-time event. Rather, it’s a consistent journey that we embark on with Jesus, a daily walking and talking and growing together with Him. “I am the vine; you are the branches,” Jesus explains. “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
What I love about this change is that the focus is no longer on my behaviour, all the things I should be doing or all the ways I’m failing. Instead the focus is on remaining in a friendship, a daily walk, with the Creator of the universe.
I can’t really explain the process by which the Holy Spirit changes my heart and enables me to keep God’s law. I don’t quite understand how I can see myself noticeably changing from a person who’s attracted to a specific sin into a person who no longer desires that sin at all.
But I don’t think it’s necessary to explain it. I just know that it’s happened to me and it continues to happen all the time. When I focus on remaining close to Jesus, things inside me begin to change that I couldn’t change myself and that’s all I need to know.
This method isn’t foolproof. I still make mistakes. I can’t keep God’s law perfectly. I’m still a work in progress. But the difference is that it’s getting easier and easier to want to do better. When I make a mistake, I know that all I need to do is confess it to Jesus and ask for His forgiveness and the heart-transplant process just keeps continuing on as if I hadn’t interrupted it at all. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).
I know the process of writing God’s law on my heart won’t be completed until I reach heaven. But that’s OK, because I get to enjoy the blessings of the “writing” process now.
So use my heart as a tablet, Jesus, and keep on writing your laws!