Sunday, April 18, 2010

Rules, Rules, Rules...

Gosh, I'm afraid to tell you this because some of my friends are here and have received cards from me... When I sit down to write a card I often feel rushed. I keep one of those books of mementos close by and I look something up in the book. It's just so much easier to find a formula for a thoughtful note than to actually put my heart and mind into writing an authentic note. But my use of rules and formulas goes deeper than that. When I'm knitting or crocheting stripes, I have a formula for placing the colors. I put them in rainbow order. It's just easier than laying out all the colors and experimenting with different combinations. Of course I have a formula for preparing meals: protein, fruit or veggie, carbs. So much easier than looking up a recipe. Rules and formulas are great, especially for busy, task-oriented people like me, but they are not so great when we create rules and formulas for our relationships.

I think one of the greatest Biblical examples of rule-users is Saul. In 1 Samuel 15, God commands Saul to completely destroy the Amalekites and their possessions. Does Saul do it? NO! "7 Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, to the east of Egypt. 8 He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword. 9 But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed."
Of course the Lord's prophet Samuel finds out that Saul has disobeyed God's directions. When Samuel confronts Saul, he has this answer:
"But I did obey the LORD," Saul said. "I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal."

22 But Samuel replied:
"Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD ?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams."

Did you see Saul's thinking? I can do whatever I want if I say that I'm sorry after and make a sacrifice to God. What a rule! I have complete control over my life. Please note Samuel's reply, of course God forgives us when we confess our sins, but He's more pleased when we obey Him.

Please don't get me wrong. I'm not talking about when you sin and authentically repent before the Lord. 1 John 1:9 tells us "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." We can't fool God. He knows when we are truly sorry for what we did and when we are just sorry that we got caught. His words tells us that in Hebrews 4:12 "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." We can't apply the rule of sinning followed by a sacrifice/confession to our walks with God. He wants a real relationship with us. He desires that we seek Him out. Jeremiah 29:13 "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

Contrast Saul's rules about God with his replacement, David. When difficulty came to David's life he boldly sought God's counsel. We see it in 1 Samuel 23:4, 23:10, 30:8, 2 Samuel 2:1... I could go on, but you get the idea "David inquired of the LORD." There is no replacement for your personal walk with God. No rules can guide you through life like a real relationship with God.

I'm sure you've noticed that this is also true of your relationships with others. No amount of rules or formulas can replace authentically and openly sharing your heart. Think of your acquaintances at the gym, work, or play group. You talk with them, but you don't tell them what's really going on. You keep everything on the surface, nice and polite. Real relationships must go deeper than this. They get messy. You share your struggles and emotions. Your real friends challenge you to be more open. You challenge them to grow. Rules and formulas cannot replace you being present and engaging your heart and mind. My hubbie and I are learning this anew in our marriage. We were following the rules: we spent time together (sitting on the couch watching TV), we prayed together (a rote prayer before meals), we were faithful to each other (but we didn't really share our hearts with each other), and we grew apart. God allowed difficulty into our lives in the form of a miscarriage. We had to connect. Now we take a few minutes every day to talk about our struggles (mine is overeating) and pray for each other. We feel so much closer.

I know you are busy. I know you have a lot of demands on your time. I know you may be afraid that if people really knew you and what you struggle with, then they would run away screaming. But you will only find the intimacy you crave with God and others if you break out of your insulating rules, formulas, and plans and become vulnerable. I encourage you to do this in a small group where you will be cared for and where you can care for others. I also encourage you to do this in your own personal time with God. Remember: Jeremiah 29:13 "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

1 comment:

  1. What a great post Rebekah. I read that passage in 1 Samuel not too long ago, and I really struggled with it because it seemed like God was telling me "Um, hello... this is YOU Faith."

    I know I've said this before, but I really value our friendship - for many reasons of course, but one being that it offers us opportunities to talk about real life, not just the fluff. Thanks for being a great friend (and not running away screaming after getting to know the real me) :)