I have been caught up on this word for a while. What does it mean to transcend the law the way Jesus did?
He broke the rules, but not with carelessness or selfish rebellion. He was recklessly obedient to God while upsetting the godly with his embodied freedom. But we don’t talk much about that kind of obedience, you know, true obedience.
I think about transcending in parenting. How do I help my children see past the list of “no-no’s” to the truth that God loves them and his way will give them the best life?
I think about transcending when I see famous pastors and writers deny the work of God in women because their law tells them it is their duty to hold tight to gender-based authority.
I think about transcending when my husband and I talk about our health goals and yet love flirting over late-night ice cream and warm cookies.
I think about transcending when I hand a couple dollars to the homeless man standing in the same spot I have passed him in every day for the last two years.
It is true, we are not Jesus. But the Holy Spirit is God. Do we grieve Him with our legalism? Do we close our senses to Her when our constructs of human-taught boundaries begin to quake?
I have had a year of confidence-shaking, habit-changing, holding-on-to-sand moments as I asked God this question:
“What does it mean to love you?”
It’s a weird thing to ask, I guess, for someone with my testimony: saved at a young age, devoted myself to ministry, studied Biblical Studies, traveled the world on mission, blogs about seeking the Kingdom, preacher, teacher, writer, stay-at-home-mom, etc..
But through grief, disappointment, and exhaustion, I have been like a bear in the spring rubbing my back against a tree, shedding off the no-longer-needed winter coat. All of the excess fur, once useful for warmth, became a hindrance to the hunting and gathering needed to feed myself and my little cubs.
And now, I can feel the breeze again. Spring has come.
It’s a scary thing to get rid of once valuable items. You should see me pack when we have to move. I want to consider EVERY ITEM. So I spend months carefully preparing five boxes. Then, moving day comes and I have only packed the five aforementioned boxes. So I throw everything else in cardboard squares labeled “mystery” and carry that crap around for years. I am like this spiritually too. I set boundaries, or rules, for myself that are necessary for a time, and then I pack those up for the long haul in a mystery box. Long forgotten are the transformative lessons but I sure as hell don’t throw out the tangible habits they imparted.
One day I looked around and realized I was so busy doing and believing all of the products of lessons learned that I forgot my first love.
Layer by layer I have cried as the security of 5-day-a-week church activities, leadership roles, institutional church, quantifiable ministry opportunities, and eventually the defense-filled descriptions of why we aren’t current members of a church fell to the ground. At every level I grabbed on to something “more pure” as my new Christian ensemble. I wore it until I got comfortable with it being the new me. Then God would ask me to shed even more.
And now I am here. A woman loved by God.
I haven’t gone to church in 10 months.
I can’t tell you if I have had any impact in my neighborhood.
But God is alive in me, and I in Him.
I can tell you who I am with confidence: I am loved by God. And I love him in return.
Before I am useful, I am loved.
Before I am mighty, I am loved.
Before I am called, I am loved.
As I build back up my spiritual habits I am living like a minimalist. I am in pursuit of an uncluttered faith: one that doesn’t hold on to obligations like souvenirs of lessons from past seasons, but rather, with gratitude for what was gained through them, releases them with grace when they have served their purpose. I will keep only what is needed for the season at hand.
My obedience, in its truest form, will not come through striving, but through God himself fulfilling in me the law that is summed up in the Greatest Commandment: Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and might, and secondly love your neighbor as yourself.
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commands. (Matthew 22:40)
Jesus was a rule breaker, but not a Law breaker. I want that. Not for the purpose of breaking the rules, but for the purpose of not living for them anymore.
I think that rules are good.
Sometimes in order to obey God, we have to flee temptation by setting a boundary. That boundary allows space for us to grow stronger as we prove to ourselves that we don’t need whatever unholy thing we used to crave. Recognizing the need to live vulnerable lives within community, but failing to do so naturally, leads us to establish programed small groups. We commit, we thrive, and we get a taste of community as God intended, and then we make that another rule.
Slowly, brick by brick we turn our faith into cathedrals to protect our godliness and the next thing you know we don’t know where God is anymore.
He is there. In the lives of those in cathedrals, churches, amphitheaters, houses, basements, and parks. I never had to leave the building to find Him, but I am glad I did.
But I miss the stuff. I miss the Sunday morning gatherings and the Wednesday nights. God uses rules and traditions to aid us in loving him fully, but they don’t do it for us. They aren’t enough, but being loved by him is. His love transcends all boundaries, all logic, every rule, tradition, ritual, and formality. Only his love. Only by His Spirit.
Does your faith journey need a spring cleaning?
How many rules have you added over the years?
Are you trusting in God to hold you close as you seek after him, or are you depending on your boundaries and activities to do that?