Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Rulebook

"No tank you."

That was my friend's sweet, loveable two-year-old. He had just been told that he had to go to bed, and he politely declined just as he had been taught. He hasn't learned yet that there are some rules you can't just politely decline, and that they are for his own good. He was determined not to miss a moment of the potential fun that was to be had after he went to bed, even though he knew the rule was set.

When I was younger, church seemed all about rules.

1. Don't drink.
2. Don't smoke.
3. Don't do drugs. 
4. Don't go to parties where any of the aforementioned will be present. 
5. Don't be friends with kids who partake of the aforementioned. 
6. Obey your parents.
7. Go to church. On Sunday morning and Wednesday night, too.
8. Don't be mean.
9. Memorize the books of the Bible, and then sing them in a cute little diddy for the church. And don't forget them, either. 
10. Don't watch TV or movies and don't listen to rap music. Or rock. Sometimes country is bad, too.
11. Don't clap in church. (What? Did I make that one up? It's possible.)
12. For goodness sake don't cuss.

And last but not least:

13. Do not, no matter what you do, ever have sex before you get married. Ever.

There are more serious rules, too, and they hold a lot at stake. Do I live a self-less life, or am I immersed in this culture's all-about-me attitude? Do I respect my fellow human beings, or do I live in righteous indignation and judgement of other's behaviors and attitudes? Do I look to other people and material possessions to fill my happy tank and my heart, or do I look to Christ as my end-all, be-all?

Some people seemed to get the hang of all the rules. They were good kids from good families who raised money for the poor and wore chastity belts and promise rings and read their bibles. Don't get me wrong, I was a good kid, too. But I said (politely, of course) "No, thank you" to the list of rules I had been taught and made up my own. Rules that would make the women of the church gasp and the little children run away and hide behind their mamas skirts.

What I failed to understand is that those rules weren't set to make me mad or keep me on a tight apron string. They were meant to protect me, to set me apart from the world at large.

Flash-foward a few years, and now I have a set of rules that I expect my kids to follow. They don't like them either (especially the one about not complaining about what's for dinner, and if you say "I don't like...", then you loose your dessert--they hate that one). But what they don't understand is that the rules I set aren't to be mean (there is a possibility that the aforementioned dinner-time rule is a little mean, but that's the only one) but are meant to protect and teach them about growing up. The world can be a scary place, and they need to know how to take care of themselves and be responsible human beings. And rules can teach them those things, along with careful guidance and parenting.

I wish I could have understood that "everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial" {1 Corinthians 6:12} when I was younger. It may have kept me from making many of the mistakes I made as I clumsily made my way through life.

Nobody's perfect, and even though I know that certain things aren't beneficial, I do them anyway. I still listen to rap music. And sometimes country and a little rock 'n roll. I watch TV and movies that aren't necessarily edifying (but they are pretty entertaining). Occasionally a curse word will fly (only when I'm really, really mad), and I don't have all the books of the Bible memorized (still!--although you'd think by now some would have stuck).

And I totally clap in church.

 

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