Rules create boundaries, boundaries create structure, and for people like me, who lack natural structure or self-discipline, that structure creates order in the midst of the chaos of life.
My lifestyle creates chaos, so a little order in the midst of disorder can be a very good thing. Rules keep me moving. They keep me on track. They make sure I do the things God has asked me to do.
Last February I committed to blog through the Bible. Although I hoped someone would read what I wrote, I didn't really know if anyone would. I needed to discipline myself to write. I may be too scared/busy to try getting published right now, but at least I can get published on the World Wide Web.
And so I began writing. So far, I have 237 posts written in 2010. When this one is done, I will have 238.
The discipline has done everything I hoped it would do. It keeps me on track. It challenges me to write. It gives me things that I can actually submit to publishers when I have time/am not too scared.
It also makes me a little legalistic.
Like I feel guilty when I don't do what I have committed to do. Like I've failed. Or cheated.
Right now I've read all the way up to Isaiah 42, but I've only blogged up to Isaiah 28, if you count the post I'm writing now. I feel like I need to get "caught up," and then I remind myself that it's really okay.
It's not just the blog either. I always feel like I have to do a little bit more than is required. In my classes. At work. With ministry. And I'm not good about asking for help. I think if I just try hard enough, I can do everything.
I don't have to be so obsessive. And yet, I am a little obsessive. A little legalistic.
These qualities don't exactly strengthen my spirit.
They remind me to "buck up" and "keep moving."
As I read through Isaiah last Sunday morning, I highlighted Isaiah 28:10-13 and 23-24.
For it is: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there.At first, I just liked the sheer poetry and rhythm of this verse. And then, when I thought about it, these words spoke directly to my heart.
Erin, you know in your heart that I am your strength, that I am your joy, that I am the one who works through you. And yet, you don't ask for help, you forget to ask for wisdom, you forget to rely on me to go before you and show you all you need to know. You create rules to live by, and while those rules seem rational, I came to free you from rules.
I came to lead you to a "resting place" (v. 12), so that you can take a break, so that I can fill your spirit with joy, so that I can strengthen you for everything that's coming next.Today is a resting day. I want to get caught up, but writing in the blog is so much more than getting caught up. At least today it is. It is a chance to reflect on God's Word and the message of hope in Isaiah, fulfilled through the promise of Jesus arrival.
Isaiah issues a warning to the people of Israel. You can choose my rest, you can rely on me, or you can choose the rules. You can continue to do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule, a little here, a little there--and you will eventually fall backward and hurt yourself. You will become enslaved by your rules, until you turn to me and then I will free you (v. 13).
And then Isaiah tells this wonderful story about a farmer:
When a farmer plow for planting, does he keep on plowing forever? Does he keep on breaking up the soil over and over again? Of course not. At some point, he plants the seeds, as God instructs him, and then he waits. For God to grow the plants.
And when the grain grows, the farmer harvests his crop and grinds it to make flour, so he can make bread. so he can eat. Even then, he doesn't keep grinding forever.
Trust in the Lord. He wants to nourish our souls. He wants to give rest. He wants to free us from the captivity of following laws.
How much better to turn to him, to find strength in him.