I live with a 7-year-old boy who loves rules. It’s a portrait of both the age (7-year-olds tend to be perfectionists, and they’re processing their world by noticing patterns, which are a type of rule) … as well as him being first-born, who tend to be more likely to stick to the rules (many second-born kids are rebels – certainly our Caedmon is, and many friends have the same “adventures” with their second-borns). I find myself daily creating some rules while explaining why I break others. I also have to restrain Dante from creating rules about every little thing, because I can’t keep track and I don’t want to seem to promise to follow the rules he deems essential (like getting a serving of sweet drink every day!)
Sometimes, I love seeing how he follows rules. Especially when it comes to holding hands in parking lots and taking a “thank-you bite” of each food on his plate.
But sometimes the rules are exhausting. He can come up with so many rules, about so many different facets of life. It makes me wonder whether he is imitating Eric and I… a scary thought, but probably a fair portrayal of how adults seem to come up with rules when and where it suits them. Even the rules of the English language are exhausting to a kid just learning how to say verbs right or spell anything at all.
And all those rules take a toll on one’s spirit. We’re constantly checking how we measure up, against how others are doing, or against how we think we ought to be, and we are doing those comparisons with a limited amount of energy and love. We can weary ourselves.
This is where life as a Christian is both my firm ground and my life-buoy. I know that there is Someone who will love me despite my failings, fallings, and confusion. And looking at that love, I see others around me who reflect that love. That in turn re-energizes me to try, to listen, to grow, to ask hard questions, and to boldly step forward knowing that I’m not going to get it all right. As a Lutheran Christian, we talk about “sinning boldly” – continuing to do things imperfectly rather than be paralyzed by heartless rules.
I think I said in one of the prior posts, “Don’t cry over anything that can’t cry over you.” Rules won’t cry over us. They won’t stand by us. But our Creator does stand by us, and I believe that God sent Jesus as proof positive that God accepts humans as we are – broken and needing healing, lost and needing hope, and at times looking down on others for breaking rules that we ourselves aren’t following. Not that God gives us free reign to become heartless – but that Jesus walked with people, coaching them on how to live vibrantly and boldly in a world of rules.
What are the core rules that you would stand for? What rules have you broken so that love can increase? What rules do you wish the world could courageously break?