I don’t know about you, but I love the law.
I just love it!
It makes sense. It puts things into order and it helps me to know what to do. When I was a kid I learned to use the law to get attention. While some girls were breaking it to feel freedom, I was busy using it to my advantage: proving my goodness, my smarts, my talents. Straight A’s, 4.0 grade average, saving myself for marriage. I obeyed the heck out of the law, and I got all the glory for it. Doing great at what people tell you to do is, well, great! But girlfriend it can mess you up!
First, there’s the nasty problem of having to constantly prove yourself. When proving yourself by your ability to obey the law, you end up in a continual frenzy of action, stress and worry. And the few laws that you start out to conquer become a few more and a few more. Pretty soon if there’s a law you hear about you want to get in step with it, to tic it off of your list of “I can do it!” So when I first became a Christian I was in heaven, heck, there were more laws then a girl could know what to do with. ‘Thou shalt not’ was my favorite phrase. The lights just kept going on for me. “I didn’t know that!” I’d say with an excited smile on my face. “Now I can get things right. This will change everything.” And so I devoured my first Bible. Read it from cover to cover in three months and set about to change my life. And I did, by my sheer devotion to the law, change. And since the law proved to be so valuable to my growth, I wanted everyone else to hurry up and change too, so I became an evangelist. Yes, of the amazing love of God, but more importantly, I thought, of the law, the glorious law that sets it all right.
But what I found out was that the love of the law makes you an uncomfortable companion. “What?! You mean people don’t want to be continually corrected? Or told what they should do in order to make their lives better?” That makes no sense to me. If I have the cure for cancer why wouldn’t you want me to share it with you, or so I reasoned. Isn’t part of love sharing the burdens of one another? And if my burden was (allegedly) lifted by obeying the law, why wouldn’t you just obey your way to freedom too? Ugh, that’s it, that’s it right there; the root of my dysfunction. In my pursuit of God, I got caught up in believing that the law was meant to save me, that it could save me. I fell so in love with order, direction and purpose that I missed the Savior. I missed his kindness (grace) in setting me free from the law.
It’s so ironic, because for years after Catholic school, I tried my hardest to prove myself to God; to do things all right. But I failed, I really failed. And then I read about myself in Galatians 5:4 and another kind of change started. It said, “you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” These simple words started a decade-long wrestling match with this idea of grace, the concept that destroys the power of my beautiful law that says: the law doesn’t save you, his grace does. Those words don’t taste very good coming out. Frankly, they offend me. I’m a do-it-yourselfer. I enjoy my to-do-list. I feel good when I get things done. But grace, grace just comes in and reveals the mess that lies underneath and says, ‘that’s okay. Life is messy. But you’re covered.’ I want to run around after grace and clean things up. Sure, grace is necessary, especially for those times when I can’t do it by myself, but let me at least try! Let me put my life, my house, my relationships in order, and then if I fail I’ll come looking for grace. I treat grace like a safety net. But tell me that I can’t be justified by what I DO get right and I’m all kinds of confused.
Grace is something I fear I’ll never truly understand. And as I look around my house, the desire to put things in order, to straighten my life up and prove my presentability to you all is ravenous within me. My flesh cries out for my daily dose of the law, but in resignation, today I’m going to walk by the Spirit. Being resigned is better than nothing, right? So what’s life like when you aren’t under the law? Today I’m going to try and see, but if I fail, I guess my safety net is still there. Ironic huh?
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18). Gulp! Here comes the mess named Hayley…