RULES OR RELATIONSHIPS?

I hate to admit it….but I’m a rebel at heart.

As my husband, Dana, and I are doing our best to raise teenagers, I am often reminded of this truth.  Memories that I have tried my best to sweep under the rug, come flashing back as I now relive those years-but on the other side!  Whew…it looks a lot different from this perspective!  We all remember those teenage years. You know, when you knew absolutely EVERYTHING?! All those ridiculous rules, curfews and unreasonable requests made by parents. UGH!  I’ve often joked that as a parent, I’m really counting on GRACE to prevail…and not payback!

Growing up, in my house, skipping church was not an option.  I could either be drug out of bed and go to church in my pj’s and hair unbrushed- OR I could get up willingly, take a shower, get both sides of my hair feathered just right and look presentable.

My choice. But I was going. Period.

This was just another thing my parents were completely unreasonable about.

Heading off to college, I couldn’t wait to be on my own and make my OWN decisions.  No one telling me what to do. Ahhhh….no rules.  Free at last!

As God would have it, I met a group of dear friends that were CRAZY, fun, outrageous…and strong Christians.  I would begin the journey of learning to love and follow God not because I was expected to, made to, forced to. But because I chose to.

Love is a beautiful thing when it blossoms from the inside out.

I have seen this same transformation in my marriage.  I can’t help but think about the last 20 years I have spent getting to know Dana and loving him. We met  at a young age when our convictions were strong and our goals were specific. Looking back, I see we were both trying to live out our passions and convictions…which were wrapped in our own individual ideas about life and marriage.  Some of which were similar. Some of which were very different.  There were expectations of who would do the yard work, the laundry, the cooking and if the toilet paper should be rolled off the top of roll or the bottom?? (We’re still debating that one)  As I look back, I guess we were trying to live out our perceived ideas of how a marriage should be.  Which at that time, we each thought we knew best. We didn’t know it, but we were imposing unspoken rules on the other and keeping score of who was doing the better job at following them.

In my faith and in my marriage, I wanted to ‘do’ the best I could. (And in return, I wanted the same)  I wanted to follow the rules.  I wanted to ‘do’ a good job.  But my underlying rebellion would always somewhat make me a bit resentful of the “rules.”

After years of trial and error…I am beginning to see things differently.  This life and the relationships in it are a heart issue.  Not an issue of shoulds and should nots and doing what others expect of me. It’s not about needing to go to church.  I better cook at least 3 times/week. I should help that person.

It’s totally about…I want to spend time with you…and in doing so, my love for you grows and I want to do what makes you happy and pleases you.  Not only in my marriage.  But in my relationship with God.  In getting to know your heart, my heart transforms and I change from a rebellious rule-follower to someone who wants to love and please you.  Do you know how freeing that is? Unbelievably so!

I feel like that’s what Jesus was trying to get across to the Sadducees and the Pharisees in Matthew 23.  Some of them were all about rule-following. Some about religious knowledge.  It was not something that was necessarily chosen, but something that was passed down from generations or expected of them.  It was just a mask they wore.  He was telling them that their faith had been more about honoring their heritage than surrendering their heart.  Or more about doing what was expected and not a reflection of who they truly were.

It’s exhausting living life from the outside-in.  Trying to please everyone.  Trying to do what’s right.  Trying to be who you think you should be. Trying to follow the rules.

Unfortunately, even if you are successful at it, you may look good on the outside but more than likely produce no more than a fragile, hollow shell that could break at any moment.  I am learning that God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, but He does call us to be authentic. He’s much more concerned about our heart than our ability to ‘follow rules.’

A tremendous weight is lifted when I am judged not on my performance, but my heart’s intentions.

Ahhh…now that’s freedom!

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