Monday, December 21, 2009

Target, Goody-Two-Shoes and the Pharisees

Today, a man walked in the "OUT" door at Target and for a good hour afterwards I was grumpy about it. He did not impede anyone else's safe exit from the store, nor did he have a particularly mischievous or diabolical look on his face. To all appearances, he was just closer to the "OUT" door and didn't feel like sliding the 10 feet to the left that would put him through the "IN" door. Man, though, was I mad.

Why did this bother me so much? Well, to put it simply, I love rules. I particularly love when people follow rules, myself included. It just makes life easier. Go in the "IN" door, don't make a left turn from the center lane...these are easy things to do, in my humble opinion.

As a child, my mom says that I was pretty much always obedient. If I was told to do something, I generally did it. This hit a climax in high school. I can actually remember a Friday night when my nerdy self was studying in my room, no doubt enjoying myself and feeling generally in control of life. My parents actually called me out of my room and begged me to go to a party. "You can even drink. We'll pick you up, no matter how late. Just go act like a teenager!" This was a bit of a watershed moment for me. Was I so over the top in my obedience that my parents actually wanted me to rebel? I suspect moments like that are largely why my brother thought I was a goody-two shoes.

Perhaps this is why grace and freedom are such difficult concepts for me. I like the Ten Commandments; they are very straightforward. Obey and live. Simple. But throw in a crazy God who sacrificed himself not because of anything I've done to earn it and my whole understanding of how to function in life is thrown upside down. I know in my heart of hearts that I'm a Pharisee. I always relate to what those dudes were angry about with Jesus and often wish that He could've given us just a few more rules to keep. Just accepting grace, accepting the love that He gives unconditionally, without a little religious checklist, feels a little too simplistic sometimes. Don't I have to do something here? Write a treatise on justification? Maybe pray a specific number of times a day? But just recognizing that all I need is that grace and love to cover my sin and how radically its acceptance changes me is actually hard work. Harder even, than not being mad at the guy who goes in the "OUT" door at Target.

I'm hoping there'll come a day when rules don't matter so much to me. When people can go in and out of doors freely without incurring my wrath. When I can fully grasp that nothing I do matters except the amazing reality of Christ in me living. When grace and truth have finally set me free from the tyranny of the rule-book.

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