"We think we can be good if we try hard enough….The snake loves this thinking because it is delusional in two ways:
(1) we think we have the ability to tally up goody points to get Jesus to love us, and (2) we think we have the right to judge others who don’t follow the rules. We get two sins for the price of one: pride and judging.
Susanna Foth Aughtmon, I Blame Eve: Freedom from Perfectionism, Control Issues, & the Tendency to Listen to Talking Snakes
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From yesterday’s comments and e-mails, I learned (to my great relief!) that I'm not the only one who regularly wipes down public bathroom counters, drives 44 in the 45 zone, and counts what’s in my cart before going into the 15 items or less lane!
But lest you worry that I’m throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater, let me be clear:
I am still a rule-follower.
I’ve watched the lives of plenty of rebels--teenage and middle age--up close and personal.
Not pretty. Absolutely no allure.
Why I Choose to Follow Rules
This summer, I listened to the audio book of Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years and then bought the paperback and read much of it aloud to Daniel.
We were struck by a simple truth: in a movie, the choices a character makes determines the plot. The plot then changes the character.
Ultimately, choices make a character.
Miller suggests applying this principle to everyday life. If I make a different choice today, my life will be different today. If I make a different choice every day, my life trajectory will alter. As my life changes, I will become a different kind of person.
Ultimately, my choices create my character.
Of course, this isn’t a new idea. But somehow the movie analogy made it seem so real, especially since Daniel and I were collaborating on a workshop called “Heroes, Villains, and the Universal Epic.”
We started wondering aloud, throughout each day, which of the choices available to us would be the “heroic” choice and which would be the “villainous” choice. Sure, these are just slightly different terms for “good” and “bad.” But for some reason, thinking within the paradigm of a grand story, the choices felt like they mattered more.
Ultimately, this is why my rule-following choices matter: they change my story and create my character.
Same Rule, Actual Choice
So, revisiting yesterday’s Starbucks-mochas-and-the-movie-theater incident:
My knee-jerk reaction to the sign disturbs me not because I think we should have blown off the rule and taken the drinks inside the theater.
My automatic fear reaction to the rule disturbs me because my behavior was a perfect example of what Aughtmon calls “Pharisee-like piety: prettied up on the outside and dead on the inside.”
It was all rule, zero relationship. I was not listening to the Holy Spirit, nor was I seeking to show a Christ-like example to my brother.
A more thought-full, conscientious response might have been to read the sign and simply tell my brother, “I’ll meet you in there” as I stayed behind to finish my mocha.
I would still choose not to take my drink in.
The key is choice.
The key is choice.
“So That” vs. “Because”
I know I keep circling back to these two ideas. They’re helping me clarify so much about what hasn’t worked in the past and choose that which is working better now.
My fear with following rules “so that” is that I focus so much on the rules, and the outcome that I need, that I forget about relationships.
And my hope with following rules “because” is that I will focus so much on my relationships with God and others that I will forget all about the rules.
Not because I’ve stopped following them.
But because I’ve stopped noticing that I’m following the rules in the joy of following Him.
- In what areas are you a rule-follower?
- How have you followed rules stupid?
- Anything else on your heart!
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