Keeper of rules--a.k.a. the post where I abundantly used italics

*Disclaimer* I wrote this throughout the day, and it feels sort of jumbled, as if my thoughts were all over the place. I may go back later and edit it again. Hah! Anyway, I hope it makes some sense :).

I'm a natural rule-follower. No, natural isn't the right word. I'm a self-driven rule-follower. I long to obey.
God's law and man's.

I want God to see and to know that I'm doing the right things. Sadly, embarrassingly, (it's stabbingly painful to my pride to admit this) I want others to see, too. I want them to know that I follow the rules, that I don't step outside the lines, that I stay safely inside this box I've placed around me. Deep down, I desire for others to understand that I'm trying desperately to lead a Godly life because...well...honestly, I'm afraid that if they don't see me doing those things, saying those things, then maybe, painfully-maybe, they will think terribly of me. Maybe just maybe, they will think I'm simply another girl who leads a life that's pleasing to her and not to God. And it causes me mental anguish, torment, when it seems as if others are displeased with me or think the worst of me. My heart races, my breathing becomes labored, and I desperately want to be as far away from that person as possible. I mean, is this just me?

Insert group-help scene here...Me: "Hi, I'm Joy, and I care, oh-so-much, about what others think of me."

Choral response: "Hi, Joy."

Don't misunderstand. I know who I am in Christ. I know I am forgiven and loved and made white as snow. I know this. I believe this. I trust this. It's just that tiny portion of my brain that basically freaks out when I think that any judgment is being passed on me.

But you remember that box that I've placed around me? I put it there. Not God. Look at what the Word says. Really look at it. Ponder it. Mull it over. It's freeing.

"What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn't work. So I quit being a 'law man' so that I could be God's man. Christ's life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not 'mine,' but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.
Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God's grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily." Galations 2:19-21 (The Message)

Did you see that? Did you? Being a Christian is not about keeping rules, nor is it about worrying whether or not we appear righteous before man. It's about a personal, one-on-one relationship with the One who paid for our sins once and for all. We should not be tied down by what others think of us. Ah! So freeing.

Now, that doesn't mean I'm going to automatically not fear what others (especially those in authority over me) think of me. But I will, consciously, remind myself that, although their opinions of me may be valid in their eyes, they are certainly not valid in my Creator's eyes. I was bought and paid for, washed clean, made new, and I am precious in His sight.

Will I still be a keeper of rules? Probably, but not in a "look-at-how-I'm-following-these-rules" kind of way. I will simply do my best to follow the standard God has set before us because He says it's good to do so. It's for my benefit; His standard is meant to keep me safe, and it allows for things to go well for me.

Simple example: Let's say I covet a new dress. It's not just any
dress. It's black and strapless, and it's pretty darn exquisite. Now, let's say I do not have the funds to purchase said fabulous dress. If I were ignoring God's standard (you know...the one about not stealing), I might neatly place stuff the dress under my shirt and, as nonchalantly as possible, walk out the nearest exit. Lights flash and alarms blare. Things are about to not "go well for me" because I boldly ignored God's standard.

God's standard is simply a protective circle that we can either choose to stay in or step out of at any time. That's the freedom of choice. Things will either go well for us (while we're in the circle), or things will go poorly (when we step out of it). The decision is ours.

His standard, that protection, is to benefit us, but those commandments do not offer salvation. They do not get us to Heaven. They are a gift, a bonus, from God to help us live lives of fulfillment and purpose and to get along w/ our neighbor. He knew life would be so much better if we put Him first in our lives, didn't bow down to things or people, honored His name, took a day of rest, honored our parents, didn't cause harm to others, stayed loyal to our spouse, didn't take what belonged to someone else, spoke truth and not lies, and remained thankful for what we have and not truly desire, covet, what someone else has.

We won't choose to remain in "the circle" all of the time, but I'm sure thankful He's put those rules out there for us. What a loving, patient, protective God we serve.

Comments

  1. Patricia KruegerApril 9, 2010 at 7:14 PM

    Well, you've done it again. I love your insights. I especially like your aside about the little black dress (Ha, Ha). Keep writing - you have the gift to help others understand about our Creator.

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  2. Joy-all the things you say are just beautiful but PLEASE be careful what you may post inadvertantly! There are so many SICK people out in cyberland! We love you and care for you!
    Uncle James

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  3. I thank God for you and the growth of His Spirit that is evident in you. My only regret is that my two boys are too old to ever be in your class. May God continue to hold you close and carry you through each and every day. I'm glad that you were as touched by the scripture as I was.

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