I couldn’t believe it. I. COULD. NOT. BELIEVE. IT!
The crinkle of her wrapper, the blatant slurping of her straw as she waltzed over to the garbage can. The thunk of her insubordination drumming the bottom of the metal can.
THE NERVE! Right there, out in the open, for everyone to see.
She was eating in the library!
It offended my legalistic tendencies. It just did.
Now, you might be laughing, or raising scornful eyebrows, but I was miffed.
I was miffed because there are rules. There are rules set in place that people are not supposed to break and they are for the good of (in this case) books, or (in most other cases) people.
And I judged. I admit it. I judged this young woman for her blatant transgression.
I judged her because it was something I would never do.
I judged her because I was sitting right there, not eating in the library, even though I had a perfectly good, just recently rediscovered granola bar that had lived in the inner pocket of my bag for who knows how long.
And I WASN’T EATING IT!
Because there are rules.
And I wasn’t breaking them, which means they are good rules.
And I wasn’t breaking them, which means I am a good person.
It hurts to write as much as it hurts to read. But it’s honest.
So many times I focus on what people are doing wrong in their Christian faith. When they cross lines I wouldn’t cross, say things I wouldn’t say, judge others (whoops, that’s me).
I look at them and am glad that I know the rules. Glad that their struggles aren’t mine and why don’t they just stop already!
What a messed up viewpoint of life. This idea that the rules others break aren’t as bad as the rules I break. That my sins aren’t as bad. That as long as I know the rules and abide by the really important ones my life is a more shining example of what must please God.
It’s an easy path to slip into. Where the focus shifts from God to the mountains we’re prepared to die on.
How do we view this life we’re living, this life that we try so hard to make look like God but which slips into a shining example of our own virtue?
And how do we view the source of our strength in this life? The strength of our own convictions, our own accomplishments, our own framework of acceptability that can morph into something that doesn’t look like Christ at all?
When we look with a judgemental eye at our spouse, children, friends, church family members because they aren’t living within our acceptable framework of behaviour.
When we are tied in the knots of our own inability to accept the gentle nudge of new interpretation.
When we would rather shelter ourselves rather than go out into all the world and make Christ known because we are too afraid or angry to see the variance of what a Christ-following life looks like.
When we love the rules more than the One who should rule our lives with his grace and mercy.
“I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love” Galatians 5:4-6 MSG
Sometimes I get caught up in the idea that it is more important to be good than to be loving.
Forgetting that by showing mercy and grace I best represent the Jesus who died for my sins, the acknowledged and hidden.
I show less grace when I forget how much I’ve needed grace. And I am rigid rather than merciful if I turn a blind eye to my own sin and the broken rules I justify.
When I look at Christ and what he has done for me, the mercy he showed to the rule keepers and rule breakers of the Bible, I can let go. Let go of the need to police others. Let go of the idea that my own journey is based on rules rather than continual repentance.
Knowing that when I do fall, when I judge others, he shows grace to me beyond what I can imagine.
Upon this grace I can confidently, like the woman in the library, dump my spiritual garbage, knowing that God desires my loving response, not my legalistic rules.