I don't do rules! It might be a shocker to some of you that the thought of following what someone has deemed as right or wrong makes my hackles stand up. I suppose that makes me a very bad candidate for Christianity, doesn't it?
I grew up in Germany, which is a beautiful country. I love my family there, my cousins, my aunts, my friends. I had a pretty good life, but I felt like I was in a pressure cooker all... the... time. Everything was very rigid. At least that's how it felt growing up. I'm sure other people don't have this experience, but it felt like that to me. I just felt so tense.
When we moved to Dubai I had my first taste of freedom. It was amazing! I had never in my life felt anything like it. Sure there were rules and some might call them more constricting than in Germany. But not to me. I had stepped into a place where I could start to become me. The tension I had felt growing up began to waver and slowly disappear. My life in Dubai can be described as a step into paradise. In more than one way. The weather wasn't too shabby either
Because of my time in Dubai, I was able to appreciate that burst of freedom I felt and I must have hung onto it. After my two years at boarding school in Austria, which was a time of gaining independence and finding out who I was, I went to England. And that was really where my life began after I met my husband. Anyone who knows him will confirm that he's one of those people that don't follow the rules too well either (now there's a shocker).
Since then I guess I've become even more adverse to following rules. When someone tells me that I can't do something, I usually end up doing it – just because I can. Me being told to do something turns me into a raccoon, backed into a corner. Can ya picture it? Not real pretty.
There was a period in my life when I tried to get it all right. We all know that we should follow the ten commandments, whether you're a Christian or not. It's 'written on our hearts'. So, let's start with the first commandment: Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Okay. We can do that! At that time I realized that my beloved horse, Thunder, had become an idol and I got rid of him (only to buy a new one right away, but that's a story for another day). I was honoring God, and He saw to it that Thunder went to a wonderful home. I did it because I had to! Can you feel the pressure mounting inside me?
Now let's move onto the the second one. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain... Ugh! Let's just say that this one was kind of easy to manage. Now before I turned to Jesus, I'm ashamed to say that my language was like that of a sailor. To my defense my father is a sea captain. So, I was well versed in all sorts of foul language (Sorry, Papi, but it's true). My oldest son learned a few choice words not from my gentle husband, who never ever uses a strong word, but from his mother! (He was four at the time) I'm not proud of this (although it's kind of humorous).
But I'm digressing. The swearing was easier to get rid of than I thought. I actually had learned a few things and knew that I couldn't do it on my own. I turned my potty mouth over to the Lord and He took care of it pretty much right away. I felt no pressure to keep it that way.
(Are we seeing a pattern emerging here?)
As I started to dig more into the Bible and church the pressure to conform, to do the right thing mounted. I started feeling like I was in a pressure cooker again. One day it all exploded. I had been at church and I was so agitated that I was talking to God (in my head), actually yelling at Him. I couldn't follow the rules! I had tried for years and all it got me was feeling constricted and feeling like I didn't measure up. At that point I told Him that if it was all about His (pardon me) stupid rules, He could just pack it in. We were done! I wasn't going to follow them anymore!
That was a huge turning point in my life!
A lot of people have the mistaken concept of Christianity. They believe that we are so stiff and unyielding (and we are) and that we HAVE to follow a set of ancient rules that they fail to see the beauty behind it all. There are a lot of religions out there. And they all kind of follow the same sort of pattern. If you're good enough... you can go to heaven. If you're good enough... you can be a great person and live in freedom. Do we see what's happening here? I hope so.
Once I calmed down from my ranting and raving (it took several days) I finally had this dribble of realization. It began as a trickle of truth, not at all rushing in. One day I was done with God, the next He revealed His glory and wonder to me. It's never about following rules. It's never about being good enough.
When I became aware of that, the pressure in my heart went away. I was able to breathe again. I came to realize that it's all about love. It's true!
You see, I love my family. My husband drives me crazy, but we're married for almost 30 years and I would marry him again in a heartbeat. I would do anything for my children. When they hurt, I hurt in probably more ways than possible. When they're doing well, I get to smile too. I cringe at their bad decisions and try to talk them out of making them. Last blog I spoke about God being the Father. See a connection here?
The rules are there as a training ground. They were never meant to confine us. They were meant to show us where we lack. We can't keep them. Christianity can be summed up in a few words.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son...
Nobody can replicate what Jesus did. It was an act of ultimate love. I'm selfish. I'll love but it's on my own terms. I love my husband, but I get companionship out of it. I love my children, hoping they would take care of me when I'm old (hahaha, Sean, Tasha,and Logan. Splitting up the year so you each have the pleasure of doing that.) You see?
Jesus knew it would cost him. He took my sin, which is nasty and dirty and smelly and just vile, and while he was agonizing on the cross, He became sin. Not because He had to – like I felt I had to uphold the rules. He did it because there was no other way and He accepted it. He LOVED me, you, my kids, my husband.
Now back to the rules!!
Once the love concept sank in, something changed. It was no longer about keeping the rules and letting them define me. I no longer had certain desires, like the swearing. As long as I allow myself not to focus on things of this world, keeping the laws became of no consequence. Because it wasn't about them.
It was about Jesus and His love. It was about allowing Him to rule in my heart, and not forcing it, not following others. It was about Him and me. Incidentally, isn't that what a relationship is all about.
But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of
sin. Romans 7:23-25
Now, I still can't stand being forced into anything. It totally goes against my character! That raccoon thing is still inside me and it can come out if I'm put into a position where that happens. I'm usually a wreck after and during.
I won't follow the rules. I follow Jesus.
Thus you – hopefully – won't see my face on a Most Wanted poster any time soon. Christ is the one keeping me.
If you came up to me and asked what I do, I'd have to tell you that I'm a wife, mother and teacher. A writer? you ask. Wow. Now that is something I never thought I'd be. But through God, all things are possible.