Dining out at a restaurant is not my ideal way to spend an evening. For starters, I always feel a need to get the waiter to like me and to choose the best thing on the menu (as if it were a multiple choice exam). If the room is full and it looks like there’s a long waiting list, I feel obliged to eat quickly so that someone else can have our table. If you’re (just a little) neurotic, eating out can be expensive and stressful. But I would pay triple the price right now to go out to eat in a noisy, crowded restaurant with rude service and overpriced cocktails.

Likewise, I am not a big moviegoer. I see one or two movies in the theater each year. There’s always the risk of sitting next to an armchair hog or in front of someone tall with restless leg syndrome. There are the teenage gigglers, the noisy whisperers, the non-silencers of cell phones, the open-mouthed candy eaters, and the one token snorer. And yet, I would pay triple the price right now to see any B-rated blockbuster on the big screen.

Why the sudden change? Why do I now crave what had previously been at my disposal on any given day? Have I become a living testament to Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” maxim of not knowing what I’ve got till it’s gone? The simpler explanation is that I’m desperate for any kind of three-hour getaway with my wife. The deeper, more sinister answer is that I want to do these things because I’m not allowed to do them anymore. As a human being, I have an appetite for the forbidden. The restriction of an activity gives rise to a desire to do that very activity. As the Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, the law increases the trespass.

Just as every young parent is confounded by how leisurely their previous life was in retrospect (“What did I do with all of my free time before having kids?”), so many of us are pining for the life we never would have chosen when we had the freedom to choose it. I didn’t use to go outside that much, but the demand to stay home in quarantine makes me want to go outside. If Netflix and Chill was a perfectly fine date night before, now it feels a bit like prison.

To be clear, I’m not advocating rebelling against CDC protocol. And it’s important to acknowledge the real and terrible consequences of life in quarantine — a long list that includes rising divorce rates, rising depression and anxiety levels, as well as a deep sense of loneliness due to social isolation. It just seems like the Law has thrown an extra curveball by increasing my desire for things I never previously wanted. Going to restaurants with young children is about as fun as wrestling a bear. It is something I would never want to do under normal circumstances. And yet the strictures have made the desire for that which is restricted much more intense. Even going to church feels like forbidden fruit nowadays.

Augustine famously tells his version of our predicament in his Confessions. As a kid, there was a pear tree down the street “laden with fruit, though attractive in neither colour nor taste.” He and his gang of naughty adolescents carried off a huge load of pears, only to eat a few of them and throw the rest to the pigs. “Even if we ate a few,” he writes, “nevertheless our pleasure lay in doing that which was not allowed. … My pleasure was not in the pears; it was in the crime itself.” Sin is not only a direct refusal of God’s free gift, but relishing in its opposite. The fruit of the Spirit (i.e., a life filled with joy, peace, patience, kindness and a slew of other things I could use more of in my life) is the organic response when one is able to receive God’s grace. All too often, however, we will settle for a load of rotten pears. When left to our own devices, we will choose power over happiness; control over joy and peace; pride over grace.

And yet, God does not abandon us. Paul also writes in Romans that, as the law increased the trespass, “grace abounded all the more.” While I still haven’t been to any restaurants or movies, God has provided all sorts of unexpected time with people that I love. Our group of friends has a standing croquet match every Sunday evening. My toddler and I have logged hundreds of hours standing ankle deep in creeks and rivers. Neither of these things would have happened outside of quarantine. While many parts of quarantine have been insanity-inducing, I have also been delivered from a type of insanity that I had grown accustomed to. A few weeks ago, we met up with three other families with small children for a swim at the river. We sat in shallow water near the bank while our kids threw rocks and caught minnows. As the water calmly coursed its way over our backs, one friend said, “You know, we wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for quarantine.” It was true. In that moment, we had been given an unexpected gift, something for which we had never previously even thought to ask.

As the prayer goes, God is “always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve.” So it goes with the gospel. It’s the gift we never knew we always wanted.