Okay, so a friend of mine has posted a little something on her blog about New Englanders and their totally abhorrent driving methods that defy the rules of logic and driving.  And yes, I like that she called them Yankees. 

[In the spirit of full disclosure – like I’m a journalist or something – I do come from a “blended” family.  My mom is from the South, and my dad is from the North.  But he got to the South as fast as he could, and now they live in the water-like atmosphere of Texas.  He feels that life is best lived at the extremes.]

As I left a comment in response to my friend’s post, I could feel my blood pressure rising.  Kind of like when I used to have to go to that awful grocery store.  Yeah, apparently I’m really good at managing my frustration. 

Anyway, I spilled the beans in my comment about the fact that I am a rule-follower.  Yes I am.  I put my napkin in my lap when I’m eating.  I don’t wear white between Labor Day and Easter.  I color within the lines.  I follow instruction manuals when assembling electronics and furniture.  I don’t end sentences with prepositions (at least not when it counts).  I return my seat and tray table to the upright position.

But for the record, I don’t always choose the higher seed in my NCAA Tournament bracket. 

I am such a rebel.

So you can see why I do not like the fact that drivers in these parts stop when they should go and go when they should stop.  Did they not read their little booklet in driver’s ed class?

But before you start calling me a poster girl for Junior Cotillion, know that my rule-following tendencies are really a cover.  The way I see it, if you follow the rules then you are part of a very small group who not only knows what to do but has the discipline to do it.  So following the rules begins to give you a sense of self-importance.  Oh come on, I know there are a whole bunch of you out there who know what I mean.  There must be at least TWO of you.

Following the rules also makes you feel like there is a logical order to life.  There is a system that can be deciphered and followed and will lead to a natural, explainable end.  It makes you think that life can be controlled.  Particularly controlled by you.

But it cannot.

Which leaves me in a predicament in many areas of my life, namely in my ability to understand grace.

You see, God set up rules way back in the day.  But they weren’t set up so that we could earn our way to Him.  They weren’t established to make us worthy of blessings.  They were set up to protect us – mostly from ourselves.  And they were ultimately meant to be ways that would mark us as a people set apart for a different purpose.

And as much as I would like to call myself a rule-follower, I’m not really a rule-follower.  I’m a Pharisee. 

Pharisees pick and choose which rules they will follow.  And they tend to choose the ones that make them look the best.  But the ones that are the hardest to keep – like loving your neighbor, praying for your enemy, humbling yourself, cutting out things in your life that cause you to sin, not seeking worldly pleasure or gain – well, they don’t really pay too much attention to those.  Those things have to do with the heart, and so they are much more uncomfortable to address, much more difficult to change.

But the truth is that none of us is really a rule-follower.  And try as they might, Pharisees cannot control how God dispenses His grace.  Our ability to follow the rules does not determine His favor. 

The truth is that grace does not make sense.  God cannot be manipulated. 

And while I do believe that Christ calls us to obedience, the moment I begin to find my value in it I will miss the boat entirely. 

My value comes from the one who bought me, the one whose life was the price for mine. 

I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?  Are you so foolish?  After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?  Have you suffered so much for nothing – if it really was for nothing?  Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?  Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”  Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.  (Galatians 3:2-7)

It is hard for me to understand why a just God would give me life when I deserve death.  It is hard for me to cease striving to prove to God that I was worth what He went through on that cross. 

But He went through it because I was already worth it to Him. 

That’s really hard for me to believe on a lot of days.  And it’s even harder for me to live a life that reflects that truth.

Rule-following is not wrong.  Obviously.  But why we do it and what we think we get out of it must be reflected upon for it to have any meaning at all.

And at the end of the day, I’m really glad it’s not the measure by which I am saved or blessed or valued.  Because the truth is that I really am a rebel at heart, whether or not I wear white after Labor Day. 

But the King of Kings broke the rules and came down here to give me a new heart. 

Teach me to live in your grace, Lord.  Teach me to accept your love.