Confession time. I am a rule-follower. This attribute made me popular with my teachers when I was a child..but not necessarily with my friends. :0) Give me a list to check off, a procedure to follow, and a ruler to measure, and I am a happy girl.
(Sidenote: this tendency to follow rules does not always ring true on the roadways when the ridiculously low speed limit on an interstate highway is set to 55mph and the rural highway right off the interstate has an insane speed limit of 70mph. Have you people tried driving the speed limit on I-45 through Houston? Motorists who follow the posted speed are promptly run over, chewed up and spit out on the shoulder. There. You have been warned.)
If the restaurant’s sign asks us to please place our order at the counter before we pick out our seats…I follow that rule, to the letter. To do otherwise would distort the space-time continuum and would cause a three-ton load of guilt to fall on my shoulders. If the recipe calls for a pinch of salt, I have been known to wonder whether MY pinch is sufficient or if I should have my husband use his man-sized fingers to do the pinching. It’s an “Air Quality Alert Day” and the National Weather Service advises those who have sensitive lungs to stay indoors? I keep my asthmatic lungs in the air conditioning, thank you very much. Snipers shooting shoppers in grocery store parking lots? (I lived in Maryland during the infamous “Sniper Attacks.”) I followed the advice of the police and zigged and zagged my way to the doors of the grocery store, crouching all the while. (When my husband observed my unique attempts at avoiding sniper bullets, he bravely offered to do the shopping for our family. I’m sure some of that offer arose out of embarrassment at his wife’s antics!)
So when the LORD himself tells me to do something in black and white — i.e., written in Scripture — my tendency is to do it immediately, without question. Although this characteristic of my personality may make me look like a goody two-shoes (what is the origin of that phrase, anyway?), it’s really an attempt by ME to control my life…er, my afterlife, that is. I want to please God so he will not smite me down and drag me to the place of eternal fire. There’s a great deal of self preservation in my drive to obey Him. I know in my head that I am saved by His grace through my faith and NOT by my works. But still…I want to please my Father.
My blind devotion to rules often obscures the truth. Like the Pharisees, I find myself bogged down in what I *should* be doing instead of living a life of freedom. Freedom. I am so trapped in following all the rules in my life — many of my own making — that I don’t know what freedom even means. Sometimes I get tangled in scripture because I get hung up on all the rules.
So how does a rule follower like me learn how to live in grace and freedom? (A-ha! I caught myself about to write, “I SHOULD…”) I don’t have the answer to this question, so I offer it up to God in the form of a prayer. I’ve been praying for insight into living this way…and what should scroll across my twitter feed this morning than this quote:
Fans who follow the rules instead of following Jesus find that they are weighed down with guilt.
Guilt is just another name for condemnation. I don’t believe the Lord set me free so I can wrap chains around myself. In an effort to shake off the chains, I’m making a list of “rules” — both the ones imposed on myself and the ones I think others are imposing on me — that I follow. And then…gulp…I plan to break them. On purpose. With the Lord’s help, of course. The challenge will be in not allowing myself to feel guilty/condemned when I break these rules even if those around me condemn me.
I’m talking self-imposed rules here, not laws, and certainly not breaking God’s laws. I have no desire to end this exercise in rule breaking by being thrown in jail! The Pharisees created many man-made laws that made no sense…such as washing the outside of the bowl rather than the inside. What rules in my life make no sense? Which ones ignore the spirit of the law and impose legalistic rigidity?
Thou shalt load the dishwasher and turn it on before going to bed.
Tonight…I won’t. And I won’t lie in bed and worry that the food will stick to the dishes because instead I will have my very capable almost-teenaged daughter load it. And start it up. Or is that cheating?
Thou shalt answer every email before the end of the day.
This one I break occasionally…but tonight I give myself permission to wait without the guilt.
Thou shalt turn off the lights before leaving the room.
This is my husband’s rule. I happen to have a (childish) dislike of walking into a dark room, probably borne out of countless times I cracked a shin against furniture I could not see. Being blessed with colorblindness, my husband is able to see in the dark like a cat and does not usually bang his shins against objects in a dark room. But tonight I will leave on my lamp. Without guilt. Well, maybe a little guilt…all that “wives, be submissive to your husbands.” Since I fail to follow this rule all the time anyway, he won’t realize I’m doing it on purpose. Unless he’s reading this blog. Hi honey!
Thou shalt cook only fresh vegetables for the family because the canning and freezing process leaches out all the nutrients, so choosy moms choose Jiff. No, wait. That’s another rule.
No. Not going to do that. Tonight I opened a can. I’m the only one who eats green beans, anyway.
Choosy moms choose Jiff.
I still hear that slogan every time I’m in the peanut butter aisle. And I always reach for the Jiff. Especially after Salmonella was found in Peter Pan. But on my next grocery visit…I’ll choose something else. Not Peter Pan. But something other than Jiff.
So those are fairly light-hearted rules that I plan to break on purpose. The key will be whether I’m able to break my own rules without feeling guilty!