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."