Mother's Day. Dreary. Rainy. Cold.
I'm sitting here at the computer writing, the kids are all sleeping and Kim is at the store picking up a few things. Probably flowers will be one of those things knowing my hubby...
I can't believe it's the middle of May. Seriously. Where has this school year gone? I'm looking forward to some downtime in a couple weeks. Time to clean the house, sit in the sun, take a walk, grocery shop when there aren't a million people in the store.
Last night we talked about legalism at church. Several of us were asked to take part in the service, and I had to talk about my experience with legalism, and how it makes us feel, or hurts us. I wasn't sure where to go with it even tho I have experienced hurt because of it. So I let it roll around in my brain over night and got up in the morning and wrote this:
When I was growing up life had a list of do's and don'ts. Christianity had a bigger list of do's and don'ts. Especially in the high school years.
Don't smoke. Don't drink. Don't dance, go to movies, play cards, listen to rock music, (we did anyway..) and above all, don't question these rules. Christianity became about the rules and not the person. If you don't follow the party line, your faith in God is seriously questioned.
Rules obviously have a place in society. It would be chaos without rules. But with rules just for the sake of rules, without understanding or conviction is harmful. Growing up in the home/church I did it was kind of drummed into me that if you were a Christian this is what you did. And so the tension in my life became unbearable at times. And if a friend asked me why I couldn't go to the movies I had no good answer. It wasn't my rule. And it bred resentment, and questions, and a feeling of doubt - doubt that because you didn't see the logic in the legalism you must not be a Christian!
College came, and it was worse. I went to a pretty conservative college, ok a really conservative college. And most people seemed to get the rules. And have no problems with the rules. They followed whatever they were told - hook, line, and sinker. I wanted to know why, and pat answers weren't cutting it. This led to a huge crisis of faith. And a miserable few years as I struggled with whether I was truly a Christian or not.
After college I worked, got married, had kids, all the while just living the "correct," "good," "acceptable" Christian life. Church - whenever the doors were open, bible studies, Christian friends-what I knew, because it was easier to follow a prescribed path, and not make waves. But I still had questions. I dreaded church - I thought differently than others. I had questions. Opinions that didn't match. I felt hypocritical, like I was playing a part just so I wasn't looked down on. But I just never fit. And the tension got worse. I started avoiding anything church related, except Sunday morning church, and then I'd prefer to go, be done, and get out. I really didn't want to interact with anybody. It was awkward and uncomfortable. I didn't have anything in common with these people. But I kept going, because it was what a good Christian did. I was a good Christian, right?
And I still had no idea why things I were doing were right or wrong. So, I started making a few "daring" choices - doing things we were never allowed to do because I could. And I let my kids do them to so they wouldn't ever feel the legalism and conflict I felt in my life.
I was a good mom; I made sure my kids were in Sunday school and church; that they knew the Bible stories and the rules. That they knew how to "do" Christianity.
But as they grew, I realized I wanted more for them. I wanted them to think for themselves so they wouldn't end up like me. I wanted them to be compassionate, to be in the world, to have a faith that was relevant, to have the freedom to question why they believed what they believed. And it was not gonna happen where we were.
Around this time my daughter started attending another church youth group. And what she was learning was amazing. It was exactly what I wish I had been taught as a teen . I'd read her lessons and wished I could go to youth group with her. Just so I could ask questions and not be made to feel like a second class Christian. And because I finally realized there were other people in the world that thought like me. This group encouraged the kids to open their eyes and learn to see God everywhere; not just in church or in their devotional times, or in their Christian friends, but everywhere. They were taught that God should be a part of their life all the time, not just on Sunday. And God could be experienced even in the most unlikely of situations. God is with you, and you are with him every second of every day. Live your faith!
They were shown the importance of being ready to experience God in school, with their friends, at the movies, reading a book, listening to a song, wherever. They were taught if you only expect to see God in certain places, then you will only ever find him there, and what a small God that would be. God in a box. Wow! I didn't realize there were pastors like this out there - that actually thought the way I did, and were willing to admit it and teach it to the kids!
And through this I allowed myself to start asking questions, abandon my old faith construct and think about what I truly believed. And when you do this, you find you no longer fit the old mold. And you don't fit comfortably in your old church. And you start seeing things everywhere that shake your world. You start to stretch and grow - and suddenly God is bigger than you ever imagined. Instead of feeling constrained, not allowed to do things, instead of always wondering why you had these thoughts and questions that "real" Christians didn't have, instead of constantly questioning if you were really "in", you see the world through a whole new set of eyes, a new mindset. Being a follower of Christ becomes about people not about rules.
Legalism hurts. It marginalizes people; it makes people question their beliefs. It makes people feel like second-class citizens, or like they don't belong. It divides people into those who are in and those who are out. And it even causes tension and conflict within a person because they can't separate the acceptance and love of God from the judgment of the Pharisees.
Rules separate. Divide the body. Rules exclude people. We need rules, but the rules should not be more important than the people they serve. When a rule makes you not welcome in Christian circles, or in your church I have to wonder what Following Christ really means...
Despite this, what I realized last night was that no matter how passionate I am, or how emotionally involved in this issue, I am still legalistic in areas that I choose to be. Amazingly it comes down to my personal sense of right and wrong. Not something I'm proud of really, but I have to face that truth. We did an exercise at church where we wrote down areas where we were legalistic, areas we needed to be honest about and work on. And then we put them in a bowl of water and poured water over them and they dissolved.
Because I say so - that's why....
If only I could do away with that attitude as easily as the paper dissolved in the water......