Saturday, March 26, 2011

Going Off Trail...Proceed With Caution

My last post got me thinking, and even though I'm pretty nervous about it, I've decided to post these thoughts...perhaps against my better judgement.   As I was re-reading my "hiking lessons" (especially the last one that said to "never go off trail, no matter how tempting")  I kept hearing the voice of my critics..."See, rules are important! You can't just say, 'it's not about the rules', because somebody's going to end up falling off a cliff!".  (for anyone just coming in, you'll have to read "Night in the Gas Chamber", where I bring up some spiritual issues concerning rules) 


Side note here: yes, the 'voice of my critics' are certain people I love whom I imagine would think this.  I understand imaginations of how people are thinking are dangerous, because they are often inaccurate...but you have to admit we all do this whether we should or not.  So I'm offering a defense (hopefully not defensively) to my opponents. (real or imaginary)  So from this point on be warned...we are going off the trail of humorous hiking fodder, and headed for the treacherous ground of religious doctrine and possible heresy.


First of all, I never meant to convey that rules are not important. But what I wish people would consider more is, why are they important?  Rules are for protection, are they not?  I give rules to my kids to protect them from harm, and so they won't harm others.  Lessons, on the other hand, are about understanding.  In my opinion, it's better to understand the 'why' behind a rule, in case a situation arises when the rule is not serving it's purpose and needs to be broken.  For example, let's say I tell my kids, "don't go in the pool today", because maybe I just put a boatload of chlorine in there and I know it will hurt their skin if they go in.  Maybe my child jumps in anyway...maybe because it's just so hot, and they don't think the chlorine's a big deal.  Yes, I get mad...but because they didn't trust me and now they are hurt.  I didn't ask them to stay out of the pool to earn my love, I asked them because I love them.  Now say the dog falls in the pool and is drowning.  One child understands it's more important to jump in and get a skin rash than let the dog drown.  The other kid, who only cares about following the rule so as not to get in trouble, not only does not jump in, but actually feels superior to the child that jumped in because he 'disobeyed'.  Which kid am I mad at now?


I understand why people want to clarify the rules and always have them in black and white.  We want clear directions so we won't screw up.  And we understand the danger of 'following your heart', because our hearts are deceitful and have led us astray many times.  But listen to what God promises us,
"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you...and I will cause you to walk in my statues...I will also save you from all your uncleanliness".(Ezekiel 36:26)
I do need to follow this new heart, and trust it and rest in the assurance that God is the one who is saving me, not me saving myself by following rules.


I think it's pretty obvious I'm not all worked up over this rule thing just so I can drink alcohol without guilt.  There is a much, much bigger rule issue in my life, and it's time to just lay it out there.  My daughter is a lesbian.  And everyone can tell me "oh, we love Amber...we just hate her sin", but I really wish they would consider more carefully what they are saying.  Why do they hate her sin?  What about her sin makes them so disgusted?  Because she harms herself?  Because she harms others?  "Because the Bible says it's a sin".  Well, the Bible also says a woman who divorces and remarries is living in adultery.  I don't go around telling my remarried friends that I "love them, but hate their sin".  If I was to make a point of letting them know I didn't "approve" of their second marriages, or that my marriage and love for my husband was valid and theirs was sinful, but then expect them not to feel offended, judged and hurt because "I still love them"...well, I'm sorry, but I don't think that would fly. 


I understand my family and friends are not intending to hurt Amber or me, and so much of my anger is born from defensiveness and I know I need to (and in a large part I have) let go of it.  But there is another anger in me that I'm not sure what to make of.  It's a frustration, a deep desire, to help people see God does not get angry because of His ego ('How dare they not believe in me!  How dare they disobey! Well, I'll show them who's boss, just you wait!") but because of His love and desire to save. (And if you insert "from sin" instead of "eternal punishment" as the thing we are being saved from, the scriptures make a lot more sense in my opinion...but that's a whole nother ball of wax.  In case anyone wants to think about it though, here is a question: how can a punishment have no beginning?  Eternal means no beginning and no end, so how can that be the correct translation in the few scriptures that refer to eternal punishment?)


Maybe it doesn't seem to you that these two issues are related, but I think they are.  If people didn't believe that God was going to ultimately reject my daughter because of her unwillingness to repent (instead of just discipline her for her own good...if she is indeed breaking one of the only two laws that really matter; loving God and others) then maybe they wouldn't feel such a great need to disapprove of her 'lifestyle choice', and just let God be her judge.   And wouldn't it be great to trust that all of God's judgements against us and our loved ones, (even the painful ones) will ultimately result in a positive change? (i.e. When your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness. Is.26:9)


I'm going to end here with an excerpt from my journal.  In the passage I mention, Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath, which broke a big rule. (one of the top 10)  I know it's easy for us in this day and age to understand "of course it's not a sin to do something good on the Sabbath!"  But in that time and place, and to the religious authority watching, Jesus displayed only one thing...disobedience.  And Jesus still choose to heal, even though it meant "right away they started making plans to kill him".  So here is my journal entry:
 Jesus was angry as he looked around at the people.  Yet he felt sorry for them becasue they were so stubborn.
(Mark 3:5)  Why do people always think anger has to be so hateful?  Maybe because our anger is usually hateful--or at best condescending.  Clearly God's anger can be compassionate, as Jesus so beautifully demonstrates.  He is the perfect demonstration of God's attributes in human form.  How amazing!  I am so confused by my anger.  It's mostly so wrapped up in selfishness that it always seems sinful to me.  But I don't think I can be a healthy person until I learn how to express anger.  It's good to know I should also feel sorry for the people who make me angry.  "Lord, I'm so thankful your changing my heart to be like your heart.  Help me understand Your anger, so I can learn what healthy anger is.  Amen."

6 comments:

  1. You are wonderful. I'll tell you more of why I say that when we get to talk next. One of your newer (well, only new to you!) sisters,

    Kimberly

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  2. I love you sis...thanks for posting this email of courage along with what's on your mind, I so respect you for that. I love you...AND Amber...
    and will try to call or email you by the end of the week before I leave China. Our plane comes in April 1st, what are you doing April 9th?

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  3. Oh...you know that we me, not Neal, right??!!!

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  4. I love you Kelly and I am just sorry about the pain you have been experiencing because of the lack of the kind of understanding and support you have desired from those who mean a lot to you. In the "Boundaries" study I was surprised and relieved to read of the positive aspect that anger can have in our lives. #1 It's a red flag that someone has over-stepped a personal boundary in our lives and #2 it gives us the courage and impetus to let that person know about it. If they truly care for you, they will respect you by respecting it.

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  5. a-hem. until we experience pretty near to what someone else experiences, it's really easy to make wrong judgments, say things we don't even know are unkind or hurtful. at least, that has been my observation and experience.

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  6. Kelly, I am honored to be one that you can share. You know me,I love people but am rebellious when it comes to expectations. God is the only one I feel the need to please. I seem like a people pleaser because I want them happy. I too, have had it with rules in a way. I want to love others like we were truly meant to. I have had the wonderful and yet sad opportunity to become friends with neat people who don't like Christians. Wonderful because friendships have blossomed and the opportunity to share my faith came about in a relaxed and honest way. Sad, because they shared honestly about what they don't like about Christians. They said, Christians appear rigid, judgemental and rule based. They argue about being right and reject you if you don't listen. Ouch. Though I felt honored that they felt safe to share with me, I was saddened that it reminded me of how the religious people treated Jesus. We get caught up in 'do's & don't' that we can't love the unlovable and refuse to cross boundaries to reach them. We aren't supposed to convince non-believers to believe, we are supposed to be an example to them with the love and acceptance of Jesus and let HIM change them. Is his spirit not alive and well? Remember Levi, the tax collector, and what Jesus said to the religious people who were offended that he dined with them? 'He came for sinners, not the righteous'. And as for breaking rules on the Sabbath, he also said 'the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath'. We do not know what harm we are doing when we refuse to love someone unconditionally, and what's the point of saying, 'I love you, but I don't approve of your sin'? A broken heart hears that as, 'I don't love or approve of YOU'. God knows, no need to point it out. Unconditional love is different than setting boundaries. But we do need to consider what kind of boundary we are setting and why. Is it to keep us safe or to keep us righteous? We are not his watchdogs, we are his examples. Sinners need to be loved, which means we all do. And God has given a warning to those who follow all the rules but do not love others. At the end of the day, I want my heart right. I'd rather repent for not following the rules just right, than to repent for breaking a heart. So, if you see me in a bar with a beer & non-Christians, I am in the mission field, gaining trust of non-believers who are non-believers because they have been hurt by Christians. (If I were a recovering alcoholic, this tactic would be greatly unwise.) God is willing to meet them where they are at, so it is time we do too. Meet them and love them on their turf. I am unafraid to call non-believers my friends and honored that over time, they have begun to trust my heart enough to hear about the living God. That's a positive step in the right direction. I hope I get to see more. Kelly, I love you and whatever life throws at you, I will be here. Amber is lucky to have a mom like you who is willing to roll up the pant legs and wade in the muck with her to seek Gods heart and mission for your lives. You are an inspiration to the many hearts that have been broken because of being different. None of us can say for sure what God is up to, except to say, "Seek me, no matter what...." I think your frustration and anger will subside when your heart begins to trust that God is truly the only one we need to please. Jesus couldn't please the religious people, nor did he feel the need to try. He knew what really mattered and what really changed people. Love and acceptance. And when a heart truly feels these things, then it can't help but want to live for God.

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