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3 Things I Didn't Understand about God as a Rebellious Teen

  • Holly Mthethwa
  • Published Dec 07, 2015
3 Things I Didn't Understand about God as a Rebellious Teen

My mom tells me I have been asking questions since I could form sentences, and I've been testing boundaries since before that. The incessant "whys" of my toddler years followed me into adolescence and adulthood—they still follow me today.

Growing up, I questioned the logic behind everything, especially rules. If a rule didn't make sense, it was hard for me to follow it for the sake of following it. I didn't understand the benefits of submission.

My curiosity and need to push back often resulted in rebellion. I didn't grasp my parents' discipleship role over me, and I sure didn't grasp God's Lordship over my life. Looking back on my teen rebellion, there are three significant truths I didn't grasp about God.

1. Godly Living is Birthed Out of Knowing God Personally

I grew up hearing how important it was to have a personal relationship with God, but I didn’t completely understand what having a relationship with Him looked like. I also didn’t grasp that my ability to follow rules and live a Godly lifestyle would be birthed out of knowing Him personally.

Godly living looked like a lot of restrictive rules rather than permanent and positive change in my life. I didn't grasp that the more I knew Him intimately, the more I would want to listen to my parents and follow Him.

I didn't understand that an intimate relationship would come from: 1) Studying and thinking deeply about His word, 2) Thinking about what I could learn about Him from observing His creation, 3) Thanking Him regularly through praise and worship, and 4) Seeking Him and delighting in Him.

2. Submitting to God's Authority is Not Punishment

I viewed God the same way I viewed my parents: as rule makers who just wanted me to submit to their authority. Rules and boundaries were limits. They were limiting my ability to have fun, my ability to express myself, or my ability to be who I wanted to be.

Following God's word felt and looked a whole lot like punishment, because I didn't have free reign to do what I wanted to do. I believed that freedom came from being able to operate outside of the limits, not from expanding and thriving within those limits.

I didn't understand that God's standards for our lives are protective in nature, loving to their core, and set us up to experience more joy in His presence than fun from any other event or activity.

I had a warped view of God, because I thought that He was demanding as opposed to guiding, strict as opposed to expectant, and I didn’t understand that when He—or anyone—told me what to do, it was to benefit me not to boss me.

Submitting to God's authority is not punishment; it puts us underneath His covering so we can move closer to the inexpressible fruits of the Spirit that are in Him. I didn’t understand that submitting to God’s authority wasn't a form of punishment.

3. Submitting to God’s Authority is Not Boring

If I followed God's rules, I was missing out on sooooo much—that's what I thought. I thought submitting to God's rules and standards for my life would mean that I would be living a very boring, mediocre, and uneventful life. The opposite is true.

God's standards coupled with His grace allow me to live an adventure that is focused on others and this world as opposed to me and what I'll be doing next.

I'm not wrapped up in trying to untangle myself from a web of lies or drama I created. I'm not focused on undoing drunken mistakes or fuming about someone who has wronged me.

The more I follow Jesus and the more I submit to Him, the less mediocre my life becomes. Because, even if I'm not off cuddling orphans or delivering food to the homeless, I'm seeing the sheer delight in His creation or enjoying the unique personalities of my family and friends.

I can live radically within the boundaries of His word and experience more thrills than pushing the limits could ever bring.

Holly Mthethwa is passionate about sharing God's word in everyday life. She has been a missionary advisor in Peru and India, led bible studies in the U.S. and South Africa, and is the author of the Christian memoir, HOT CHOCOLATE IN JUNE: A TRUE STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND RESTORATION. She resides just outside of Washington, D.C. where she lives an adventure with her husband and daughter. Holly writes regularly about faith, family, and moments that have hooked her heart at

Publication date: December 7, 2015