I’ve never much liked rules. When I was a kid, rules seemed like an invitation. “Do Not Enter” seemed like a secret call enticing me in to discover government secrets or mysterious aliens or some sort of hidden treasure. “Employees Only” surely must mean that if I ever thought I might want to work in that building some day, I would need to explore its secret places. I am sure my wayward thoughts horrified my rule-following friends, but my fellow crazy adventurous friends and I had quite a few escapades exploring everything from abandoned houses, the attics and cellars of famous, historic buildings and even the guts of the Queen Mary. I’ve sensed the ghosts of the past telling me their stories, envisioned people long gone working and waltzing and living their lives, like a pale glimpse into a world long gone. As I grew up, I began to realize rules generally had a purpose. It might have been the alarm my brother and I set off while trying to enter a water treatment plant we wanted to explore that started to get my attention, but I’m not sure. But I still viewed rules as suggestions, thoughts about how one should live. When I first began to discover God, it seemed like there were lots and lots of rules, lots of “Thou Shall’s” and “Thou Shall Not’s” going on. I sensed this big presence sometimes, far bigger than me, but the whole religion thing felt confining, stifling–like all fun would end in my life and I would become a dull, ordinary soul with no flavor or color in my world. I’ll never forget the day I finally realized Jesus was so much more than rules or rituals. He was a rule-breaker with a purpose! He talked to women in a culture where it was taboo to do so. He talked to people of other races and treated them with the same dignity and respect He would with anyone, a behavior that was revolutionary for a Jew in His day. He reached out to the marginalized, the diseased, the weak, the powerless, the abandoned, the dirty and the bitter. He knew how to gently push back the curtain in people’s lives that said “Do Not Enter” and begin to heal and bless those tender, wounded areas they guarded and protected. He was genuine. He was unassuming yet powerful. He was intimidated by nothing, and determined to rattle the confining cages we so often build ourselves into. In that moment of understanding the true nature of Jesus, it was as if He had handed me the key to my own cage so I could open the door and begin walking in true freedom. This freedom wasn’t built on rules and rituals. It was built on understanding who I am before my King, and how walking down the path He’d laid out for me before time began brought forth the greatest joy, the richest experiences and deepest blessings. I realized what I called “rules” were really my lifelines, specific directions that helped me to continue onto fresh paths of adventure, all designed to help me understand this amazing, overwhelming love my Father carries for me. While that doesn’t mean I haven’t touched the fire a few times after having been told, “Do not touch,” it does mean I have seen the value in God’s guide for me, the Bible, displayed over and over and over again in my life, and it teaches and inspires me to walk in His path. Yes, these days I am still a rule breaker. But you won’t find me breaking into any government facilities or off-limit areas of buildings these days. Instead, I’m usually trying to gently and lovingly break into someone’s off-limit places, the areas they feel trapped in. I don’t really care if they’re rich or poor, kind or mean, American or Armenian or anything else. I’m not paying much attention to their color or their status or religion. What I am doing is reminding them there is this amazing God who loves them and is willing to hand them the key to freedom, the ability to break free from what is trapping them in their lives. All they have to do is simply reach toward Jesus. And just beyond the cage door, fresh paths of adventure await. For Further Thought: What keeps you trapped in your own life? What are your “off limit” areas that you don’t want others to know about and you fear facing? Begin lifting these tender areas up to God in prayer, inviting His powerful light in. And read your Bible, remembering that inside you will find the keys you need to walk in freedom. Remember Psalm 119:32-35: “I run in the path of your commands, for your broaden my understanding. Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees so I may follow it to the end. Give me understanding, so I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.” It won’t be a perfect path since we are imperfect people living in a world of the same, but it is the most rewarding path you could ever take!
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