Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Not good enough

"That's not good enough," says the voice in my head.

I'm not sure my folks said that very often. They were strict rather than demanding. But our church was legalistic and explicit about God's expectations.
  • No makeup. NONE. Clear nail polish was invented for repairing pantyhose.
  • Attend every service. And every choir, band, orchestra rehearsal. If the unsaved want to get saved, they will find their way into church and appreciate our music.
  • No movies. Videos are okay, because you're not meeting where sinners go.
  • Brooches and fancy hats for women okay, but never earrings or necklaces.
  • Boys and girls sit separately in church until the day of their engagement (might as well have skipped the announcement).
  • God is pleased when we DO good. The more we do, the more pleased he is.
  • God is most pleased if we keep all the commandments and obey all the rules that keep us from distressing others, even if they immigrated from other contexts.
  • Dress is important. Looks matter a lot to God, as well as to other people - and we wouldn't want to offend other people, would we?
  • Those who read the Bible in family devotions and privately every day without fail reap more blessings than God gives to the devoted but haphazard.
  • ETC.
Even successes were analyzed for improvements. "A good meal is easy. Bringing it to the table from a kitchen that looks like no one cooked is harder." (No, ordering take-out is not an option.) Or, "That was not too bad. If we just do it this way next time, it will be more efficient" (or faster, or bigger, or better...)

Some people with an inflexible, inner legalism-monitor expect others to hear it, too. I don't mind when people evaluate man-made rules and break outdated ones that don't make sense. (i.e. "No problem to ride a donkey down the street in Pennsylvania, even if there's a law from the 1800s against it.") We certainly reap consequences for breaking God's standards, because his laws protect us from offending him and rebelling against his character. We rightly suffer when we break societal laws that protect others and ourselves from harm (speeding in school zones, taking other people's stuff, etc.)

I'm mostly happy with others' messes - at least they're not mine. Though I notice and appreciate those who dress up, I don't much mind sloppy dressers (clean, please!) I especially enjoy days when I hang around without makeup, in jeans and an old sweatshirt, or (gasp) pajamas.

On this perhaps imperfect day, rain pouring past the windows, I'm up and dressed by 7.30. I decide to make the dog take his own walk on a long leash in the front yard. We skip our long stroll to settle down together as I study. If it stops raining around 11, we might get outside and do what we should. Maybe not.

Those raised with legalism become experts at rationalization for imperfections, just to stay sane.

Read more:
*May the LORD make you increase, both you and your children. May you be blessed by the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
The highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to man. It is not the dead who praise the LORD, those who go down to silence; it is we who extol the LORD, both now and forevermore. Praise the LORD. Psalm115:14-18 NIV

*But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 
God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunishedhe did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3:21-26 NIV

1 comment:

  1. I was raised in a legalistic home too. We were allowed necklaces but never earrings and certainly no makeup! I was always a rebel and delighted in pointing out (to my dad) that the Israelites were allowed earrings so why were they sinful for us. Why was jewelry fine... except for the ears? I got no satisfying answer. My mom still thinks of the church as the House of the Lord. She dresses up to show God the respect He deserves and thinks everyone should do as she does. Genny