I’ve been on a somewhat uncomfortable journey in the past few years of unlearning some things that were taught, with the best intentions, from a pulpit or from a Sunday school class. Things that caused me to adopt an unhealthy perception of who the Father is, and how I should live my life. Legalism.
It’s tricky because, for me anyway, when I am walking in legalism, I tend to feel safe — like erring on the side of caution. I like rules, I can follow rules. I don’t like it when the boundaries are unclear and there is an element of relativism in anything. That is not to say that I don’t break the rules occasionally, but I feel safer knowing that they are there. Naturally, legalism feels like a good place to hang out some days.
The truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection is that He came not only to save us from our sins, but to free us from the law and the legalistic implementation of it. So because of redemption and grace, we can be free to make our own choices based on what we do with what the Father tells us. I’d still really like some rules as far as that goes.
There is an area of my life currently where God and I are working some stuff out as it relates to my need for rules and His desire for me to walk in freedom. There is room for failure on either side however. . . Living by legalistic rules and guidelines hinders His purpose and binds me to a life of slavery, while self-indulgence and living without any regard for what is good and beneficial within freedom could land me so far in left field I may never return, making poor choices saying, “Well, it doesn’t matter because I’m free!” He wants me to make wise decisions based on the freedom He has given me. Exercise self-control while being free. Sounds like an oxy-moron, though it is possible.
So my point: In the book I’m writing right now, my main character is struggling to understand some kingdom principles and guidelines as she enters into a new walk with the Lord. Part of me wants to cop out and give her my Sunday School answers like: “The Bible says so. It’s wrong. It’s bad. You’ll die and go to hell.” It seems easier to deliver these lines than to actually sit and flesh out the why‘s behind things. If we are free, and the Father loves us, is not disappointed in us, and sees us without blame, then, why are there still certain rules and regulations that we must follow? Some of them are for our own physical and emotional safety, but how do you explain that to someone who is new to the faith, and has already experienced some of these things?
I’m trying to teach her about the true nature of our Father, that we are His sons and daughters and that we don’t have to do anything to live inside of His love other than simply accept it. That He wants us to live without regret, and pick ourselves up when we fall and not resign ourselves to the fact that we’re probably going to fall again, failing to get back up again. I am trying to teach her these things while simultaneously re-learning them myself, but it’s all so backwards from what I’ve been taught . . . which is exactly her problem too. I’ve never written myself into a book before, but this Lanie girl, she’s a lot like me. I have to unlearn what I was taught about fearing the Lord.
I was taught to fear Him. Like, be afraid. I was taught that sin equals hell and I actually thought for a long time that if I died without having confessed every sin, I’d go to hell, so every once in awhile I’d pray, “Jesus please forgive me for everything I’ve ever done wrong!” In highschool, I was taught by my Bible teacher that every morning when I woke up, I had to put on the full armor of God. So, in fear that I might not be prepared for the “fiery darts of the enemy”, I would get up and like a mantra, speak out the verses about the armor, and imagine that I was ‘”girding myself” up. It seems so ridiculous to me now, and I remember thinking, “I never actually take the armor off though . . . do I?” GAH!!!! As if one morning, if I forgot to say the lines, I’d walk out the door and be struck down by some sort of calamity. *shakes head*
What I know now is that fearing the Lord has nothing to do with being afraid, and everything to do with revering Him, honoring Him and acknowledging His mighty power in my life, recognizing that He alone holds the power of life and death and that putting on the armor of God is not a physical action, but a way of life (Eph. 6:10-17).
There are still answers to questions that I have to unlearn or compartmentalize, though. Just like while writing Stones of Remembrance, I am once again caught in a situation in writing a book where I can not continue because I do not know the answers to my character’s questions. I have to silence the voices of the past telling me that sin separates us from God and remember that while that is true, Jesus came to stand in the gap that sin creates. That there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. I have to apply that truth to the questions that I have, and hear what the Father says about them.
I tell you what though, the God that is being revealed to me in this process is so much better than the one I was taught to be afraid of. I’m thankful for this process, no matter how long it takes, or how many times I have to go through it.