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Friday, November 16, 2012

Rule-weary, and Confessions of Lovelessness

"If every human being had the capacity to do the right thing every minute of every day, humankind would have no need of laws.

But since all of us have the capacity for both hatred and love, we are compelled to make rules that provide our best judgment for how to live together in peace and justice. Laws alone cannot ensure our well-being, however. The stories of our very best human selves are the stories of our love for one another — the stories where laws and social norms are trumped by hearts that love and people who follow their hearts and act on that love.

Consider now how love can help us be our best selves."

This quote comes from http://www.d365.organ on-line devotion we read as a family at breakfast in the mornings.  And I've gone back to read it several times recently.  It's been one of those rule-weary cross-cultural stretches.  A boarding school is a rule factory.  A missionary station is a diverse community, and every passing month seems to generate more rules or protocols or meetings or structures.  A foreign country has its own laws and makes it clear that we don't always fit in.  So as a missionary/doctor/mom/class sponsor/community member in Africa, there are a multitude of overlapping cultural lines that one must tread carefully.   In the last couple weeks I've showed up twice to events to which I thought I was included, only to be excluded with unintentional harshness.  And as a final straw, Kenya has declined for the time being to register us as aliens, having lost our paperwork.  The only thing more alienating than being an alien is being an alien who can't even have an alien registration card.  

So I admit, I've felt a little sorry for myself after some of these interactions, and tempted to throw in the proverbial towel.  But that very thought points out the real issue. " Towel" may be a boxing metaphor, but it is also a Gospel symbol of community.  Jesus washed feet and wiped them and called His followers to be servants not lords.  My capacity for hatred and judgement and exclusion is greater than my capacity for washing grime and tenderly wiping.  I'd like to imagine that without so many rules I'd be a sensitive neighbor and kind doctor and generous friend and sacrificing parent.  However the truth is that the same selfishness the laws are designed to protect our community from fills my own heart too.  So even as I sigh clinging (literally at one point this week) to the outside of the fence, instead of wishing it away I need to learn to live in the bounds of this community, extending grace.  

I'd like to trump rules with love.  Which does not happen by pointing out the absurdity of the rules, but by acting consistently in love, day in day out, until those who are trying to protect themselves and their community with ever-more-detailed laws relax in the fear-casting surety of love.  Which I suppose won't happen until the all-things-new of eternity.  When we finally won't be aliens any more.


Alyssa said...

Thanks for another good word, Jennifer. There are lots of rules in French missionary language school, too. Good to be reminded that love is the answer, not complaining or avoiding.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jennifer,
Thank you fot hanging in there with courage--in spite of the pain. You strengthen my heart. And thank you fot the daily devotional. I'll share it with Jeanne.
Sorry I vanished for awhile. There's been illness, a move--the third in 12 months--and the separation from Jim--all challenge I am still praying to master. I think of you and all your dear ones and continue to pray blessings on you each and all. Looking forward to Thasgiving. May God fill your heart with joys. Judy in HMB