Law or Grace?

Law or Grace by Jennifer SienesI like rules. There’s some kind of security in a list of dos and don’ts, and I rarely cross the line. When I hear Chris tell stories about his adventurous youth, I’m envious of the audacity he had to cross lines and really experience adventure. I’m not talking law breaking here, just a little mischief. I often say that I didn’t have adventures growing up, and there’s more than a little regret in that, but truth be told, I don’t think I had it in me.

The first time I realized what an issue I have with rules was a few years ago. Chris and I were in Orlando, Florida, for a chiropractic conference. We decided to ditch classes one afternoon to experience Epcot Center—the seven-hour-whirlwind tour. Canada Land (or whatever they call it) has a round theater where they show an amazing film about Canada (what else?) that Michael J. Fox narrates. Before the film began, we were given a verbal list of two rules—do not sit on the railings; do not take photographs. Two rules. Easy enough, right? Well, as soon as the attendant left the room and the lights went down, some of the kids hopped up onto the railings and parents pulled out their cameras and clicked away!

I was so focused on the rule breakers, I could hardly concentrate on the movie. And as we left the theater, I regaled Chris with the audacity of these people to blatantly ignore very clear, concise instructions. Chris just laughed and shook his head. “You have a real problem with rules, don’t you?” Well, duh. Since then, I realized that this penchant of mine infiltrates every area of my life, including my writing. Since I learned the rules of craft, I’ve become the structure police of every book I read, which makes it difficult to just read for enjoyment. And I suppose I can live with that.

But something struck me this morning that I can’t live with—this hang up I have with rules often crowds out the need for grace.

I’ve said this before—I’m Old Testament (law) and my husband is New Testament (grace). Being married to him for almost seven years has been wonderful, but I have to say, there are times when it’s painful, too. Painful because I have an upfront and personal awareness of my shortcomings in the grace department. That’s not a bad thing—in fact, I’m convinced God orchestrated this relationship partly for this reason.

Iron sharpens iron.

Jesus Christ is all about grace, and I thank God for that. Because at the end of the day, regardless of my staunch defense of rules, I break as many as the next person. A rule keeper tends to be judgmental and hardnosed. Compassion isn’t easy, especially for those living out consequences of their own actions. And if Jesus is about grace, then compassion, empathy and love are what He calls us to every day. To put others above ourselves (even the rule breakers) and serve them.

Are you Old Testament or New? I’d really love to hear if there are others out there who struggle with this same issue. Don’t leave me hanging out here to dry on my own!

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