I'm a rule follower.
That might not be much of a confession, but it's really not all that great of a quality all the time.
It means that in high school I thought being a Christian was all about the rules: making sure I did all the right things, or, more importantly did NOT do any of the wrong things. I made sure I didn't swear, didn't drink, didn't listen to secular music, etc. And I made sure my friends who weren't joining me in NOT doing those bad things knew that wasn't okay. I think I was kind of intolerable, actually. Ugh. I would so not be friends with high-school-me now. God bless my high-school friends for putting up with me.
It also means that, as an adult, I freak out when I do break rules. You should see how hard I cry when I get a speeding ticket. You'd think it would make the police officers not give me the ticket, but I don't actually start the crying until AFTER the ticket is handed to me. I need to work on my timing...
I have such a hard time breaking rules once they're set. And I have a hard time not making the rules important. True story: in Ethiopia, we realized that no one was timing us on our one-hour visits with Amani. We could have stayed two hours with him and no one would have said a word. But I got nervous after we'd been there even five minutes too long and we made sure we left on time. I think there's a word for people like me: weenie.
And now, in the midst of doing a seven-month hard look at all the excess in my life, my rule-follower-ness isn't helping me any. Because in this journey, the rules aren't really all that important. The point of this isn't to prove that I can go seven months and give up a bunch of stuff. The entire journey isn't even really about me anyway.
It would be easy to make the next seven months all about the rules: I can't do this, I can't have that, I must do this. And I would be in danger of making it look like following Jesus is all about the rules (like I am certain I did in high school).
But the truth of the matter is this: there is grace for all our broken rules. Being a Christian has nothing to do with following rules and everything to do with falling in love with Jesus. This fast is going to create a bunch of temporary rules for me for the next seven months. But they're temporary and made-up. I am imposing them on myself in order to take a small stand against the excess in my life and give myself opportunities to miss those things. And, more importantly, opportunities where I have to rely on God instead of on some material thing. And I think God can do some cool stuff with that.
But here's the deal: there is nothing I can do to make God love me more and nothing I can do to make God love me less. That is true for all of us.
I'm not on this crazy journey to gain approval. Not from God or from anyone else for that matter. I already have approval from the One who matters, even when I break the rules. I have an opportunity to do something that will take me out of my comfort zone(s) and closer to his heart. And I wouldn't pass that up for anything.
But heaven help me if I break the rules.
(which, while I'm confessing: I accidentally ate a piece of cheese while making the kids lunch on day 2, and I have been routinely licking my fingers after making foods that are NOT on my list... like the kids' pb&j sandwiches to take to the pool today).