Chapter Two


How was your childhood?

I only ask because mine was stuffed full of rules. From an early age. When to go to bed, when to get-up, what to wear, when to put it in the wash, how to sit at a table, use a knife and fork, when to get down from the table, when to go to school, when to be quiet, when to speak, when to go home

The list of “rules” begin at an early age and continued throughout my life.

I am hopeful it was not only my upbringing that was this way. Seems to me that it is the way. The Way we all follow mostly. Followers of The Way of growing-up. Rules are rules. And abiding by the rules is how you earn love. Because when you break the rules – that is when bad stuff happens. Either a silence, a naughty step, a withdrawal/rejection or even prison or breaking-up or divorce or really bad stuff.

Rules are there to kept. And broken when no one is looking.

We have a rule mentality. It is how society functions one way or another. Without rules there is chaos – and then where would we be? Gone to hell in a basket is where!!

The bogeyman gets used a lot on earth. Satan. The Enemy. The Devil. Old Nick.

The fiery furnace lifted effortlessly, the basement and creepy dark scary things borrowed, the things that go bump in the night adding a fear or two. Hell and heaven are used at an early age in our language. Aren’t the stars where we place loved dead ones? That is where they are now, Paul. Up there with the angels. Away from us. Safe and happy in a way I never understood. Not like I understood bad stuff for breaking the rules. That breaking the rules was not how to get loved.

Punishment and reward.

Eat your dinner and then you can … Just wait till your father gets home … If you pass these exams … Oh! You didn’t do very well in these exams … Sit properly and then you can … Ask nicely and then … Sit up straight … Sit down now … Go to sleep … Time to wake up … Who did that … I am disappointed … No you can’t, you haven’t…

And despite all that we usually do get the gist of “unconditional love”. Except we equate it with weakness not strength.

Does this ring any bells? “I want (whatever I want) and Dad will say no, so if I ask Mum nicely, she will get Dad to say yes.” And the opposite. When Mum would probably say no, I headed for Dad.

We learn how to manipulate the system. We learn about rules. We learn about love. We learn how to get our own way – one way or another. We learn how to stay out of trouble. We learn to keep our mouths shut. We learn how not to get caught. We learn rejection and we learn fear. And we are so busy learning – we forget we are being loved the entire time. Even though we know we are. Really.

And then hormones change the rules!

Girls get bumps and curves. Boys get hair and a creaky embarrassing voice. And with it more learning. This time the stuff no one told me.

Pretty confident girls get the boys salivating. Confident bad boys get the girls salivating. Judgement and self-abuse begins to really kick-in. The mirror now becomes our best friend or worst enemy. Comparison against others now a HUGE factor. More important than “the rules”. More important mostly than my mum and dad. They would always be there. And with this shift in perspective came Fear. Fear really grows up and pushes so much else out.

Fear of not fitting in, fear of not being cool enough, bad enough, cynical enough, clever enough, stupid enough, care enough, not care enough, wear the right clothes, say the right words, use the right gestures, be in the right club. Be with the right people. Be accepted. Be popular. More rules. LOTS of new rules! All with dire consequences. And then all those changes in my body and all those around me. The ultimate prize!

Get laid!

But the act of orgasm? The self-practice of orgasm? More rules. Don’t ever let anyone EVER catch you doing that to yourself. That is Dirty. That is how you really break the rules! And don’t ever let anyone catch you doing “it” with another. That is Very Bad!! Fear of being caught again. Always fear. And rules. The rules never talk about sex, orgasms, making love, how to share love, how sweet it is, how beautiful and mind-blowing having an orgasm together really is (they are too old for that – so we can’t either). And school is left to give us the mechanics of reproduction and protection and how not to “catch something when you do.” And/or our own parents make an embarrassed attempt to join the bandwagon of “How not to – because the consequence will be really bad if you do.” Or not.

There is a lot of rule living passed on from generation to generation. There is a lot fear passed on like a baton in this eternal relay race.

And then at some point – in comes God. Father Christmas for grown-ups.

He will Love me. He forgives me. He died for me. And with God comes yet another bunch of rules – and many rule keepers! Gate keepers. All dressed up and with titles. Rank and seniority. And we know all about rank and seniority. We learned that at a very early age.

So we have to learn to fit in all over again. Learn how to be “God cool” – how to fit-in with this new club – how to be accepted (or rejected) all over again – learn these new rules (and not be caught breaking them). Yet still with all the other stuff, all those other people, friends and family – all of the things so important in our lives – all of that still part of us. What I think of as having a life – living – living and breathing.

Yet so often the gate-keepers say (or imply with a look, a frown, a “way”) that we must drop all of that “sinful life”. We learn that people who don’t belong to this club are not welcome. We learn so much about sin. It is SIN! They are SINNERS! And – the biggest bummer really – I am still a SINNER every day! No matter all this stuff about being born again and being saved. I am still a sinner. All day. Every day. For the rest of my natural life. No matter how hard I try. Always the bogeyman, the fires, the damnation. Always the rules. And always the fear of rejection – of pain. Always fear. We pass on the fear – even here.

So have we been reborn? Have we been saved? Why should I still live in fear? Of all these rules – of sinning – of not being good enough – of being nothing without God – of having to say thank you all the time – sorry all the time?

I have never worshipped anyone or anything ever before. I loved and have loved and know love and yearn for love and relationship. Yet worship and unworthy and sorry and thank you – all the time? Isn’t that just being truly stuffed – or have I been saved for this? With more rules than ever I was before being saved.

And we wonder why we are what we are – generation after generation.

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33 thoughts on “Chapter Two

  1. As you can imagine, I have always disliked rules, Paul – especially now the phariseacal rules I see. There are always consequences to breaking them, whether as a boy pulling his sister’s hair or a man bucking the religious system. But I’m not sure they are heavenly consequences.

    • Have never had you down as anti-rules, Mark! 🙂
      And that distinction seems to me where there is confusion: what is heavenly and what is not.! Thank you

  2. Interesting post, Paul; it ‘got me thinking’ and reminded me why I’ve never fit in anywhere (thanks for that 🙂 ).

    I’ve never been much for rules myself, but at the same time I’ve never thought of following rules as a way to be loved or even liked, just as way to get along and as things to trade; I’ll go along with you on this one, but you gotta go along with me on that one… and I ended up in politics; go figure. lol

    Looking forward to chapter 3!

  3. I had so many rules as a child Paul. Even now there are unwritten rules in my extended family that i have now break on a constNt basis. Dont talk to this kind of person. Dont associate with that kind. And why? Because i said so. Great logic. Not only have i often not fit in, i didnt and dont fit in within my own family. ( excluding my husband and kids of course). And i dont care at all. Not for a long time. I follow the rule of Gods laws to love and be a good person, friend, wife, mother. Fitting in is not only overrated, its harmful.
    I too cant wait for Chapter 3 Paul. 💜

    • Katie, you write so gently and lovingly – your comments are unexpected. Which just goes to show how much I know!
      He had plonked some bible stuff in my mind. And seems happy to continue the musing on the way to those words of The Word.
      It’s all connected – that I do know. He just hasn’t shown me how yet. Which I think is pretty cool!! 🙂

  4. Sounds like a hot mess. I still have times when I am a hot mess full of frustration and angst. I look at every authority with a jaundiced eye and hold my breath as I pass by for fear I might be caught overstepping. The law kills but the Spirit brings life and relationship. The law says if I break one law I might as well have broken them all. I am a law breaker. But Jesus came. The embodiment of God to fulfill all the righteous requirements of God so I wouldn’t have to. He came so I wouldn’t have to be enslaved by my apprehensions and man made rules. He took out my stoney heart and have me a heart that is soft. He imbedded His Holy Spirit in this heart-the seat of my affections-and gave me ears to hear His voice. He says “Be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving.” Because He is kind. Tenderhearted. Forgiving. I am not perfect. I have lots of times when I am a hot mess but in His presence I feel safe to say I am a hot mess. I knows He already knows that. I feel safe because I know He loves me. He delights in me. He has my back.

    • JJ – I love that phrase “hot mess” – conjures all sorts of pictures in my English eye!

      And your words: “The law kills but the Spirit brings life and relationship” leapt out at me. This “either or” type of conflict and turmoil. I am getting a sense He is leading me to somewhere where that comes together – maybe – or maybe not?
      Not sure why – they simply seem connected. That and feeling “safe” and not perfect and somewhere is this conundrum … “All are Welcome” – with the unspoken addition of “if …”

      Thank you so much for your words – here’s to breaking free from enslavement! 🙂

  5. Have you been in my head?!
    I was very much a rules person for the first half of my life. Probably ridiculously so. I got easily annoyed when people and things in my life did not follow a designated set of rules.

    My maturing relationship with God (evergoing work in progress!) has allowed me to realize I don’t care as much about rules anymore (except the ones that keep people from harming others) and I am stepping out into a new freedom not really knowing where it is taking me.

    It is still a battle within myself to step out on the faith God gives me instead of preconceived notions eagerly dispensed by others.

    I also admit I struggle not to exact on my kids the same “rules” I was raised on of its got to be done this (my) way or the outcome will not be a good one. My rules kept me in a box. My rules also kept God in a box in my own mind. I’ve freed Him from what I once believed His rules to be (the once proclaimed by others that I’ve yet to see in the Bible) and battle to free myself and expand myself into all that He can do with me. And it ain’t easy!

    This is a very thought provoking post. Makes me scrutinize myself and how I subconsciously impose “my” rules on the people around me. Hmmmm…

    • Lilka – what an interesting comment: “I got easily annoyed when people and things in my life did not follow a designated set of rules”, and one that makes perfect sense: a place for everything and everything in its place kind of peace.

      You have given me lots to think about with that comment – a different slant and a new door opening and letting in light. The rules in my life were accepted, and then questioned (and have been ever since) – and then find myself reading your words again and seeing how I have imposed a similar way with our children,

      I am so glad you stopped by – you have stopped my brain and made it circle this! Thank you!

      • You are so very welcome, though stopping by blessed me, made my mind stop, look both ways and then consider if I’ve been thinking in the right direction.

        Sometimes it is very easy to fall back into old habits/rules instead of viewing things with a fresh approach with God outside the “lines.”

        Peace to you! 🙂

  6. You mean all that stuff happens in England too!?! 🙂 I think this might be my favorite post of yours to date. I feel like your writing has kicked into another gear, maybe stepped it up notch. So much honesty in this need, and not afraid to let the frustrations show. Thanks be to God who came not to abolish the rules, but to fulfill every single one them, that he might take the guilt of the world upon himself, and declare us ‘not guilty’

    • Hi Rebekah – and that is high praise indeed. As always the starting point was a melting pot of stuff he is kicking around. And (as has happened before) this one is a journey lead by the hand and not much of a view where the road is leading other than whispers and vapours.

      I was thinking of your piece about “writing and why/how” – and thinking to myself “does feeling the words only happen when the keyboard is clicking, finding out what the sequence is when the keyboard stops, reading back and thinking – now how did He do that? – does that count as a process?” 🙂

  7. To my dear kindred spirit, Paul – 🙂 huzzah! Wow. This one is amazing and deep – and I’m on vacation! The older I get the more I throw out the rules (not the common sense of politeness and love) – I am a sinner, as you said. I will always be a sinner while on this earth in this earthly body – sigh. I do believe that the church, at large, should throw out the rules and just love and get into a deep relationship with our Dear Father, Loving Friend Jesus and the most comforting teacher, Holy Spirit.
    As the Beatles sang, All you need is love……… THE True Love yes, is all we need and is plenty of work for me to do for the rest of my love…… concentrate on love.
    Better stop here – I need to go to the beach….
    Thank you friend,
    cate b

    • Cate, very touched that even with call of sand between your toes and the sun in your back – here you are. What has surprised me today are the differences in these comments about “rules”. I guess seeing the world through one pair of eyes that is to be expected. God old hindsight!! Huzzah for hindsight. 🙂

      As always I read these wonderful comments with affection and joy – more facets reflecting back different colours. Thank you for finding time to add another gem here.

      Enjoy your recharging 🙂

  8. Paul, you know (I think) that I was one of those “bad boys” and have always been against the system. I still do run counter culture. Jesus was counter culture. I’m not equating myself with Him, btw. Most of the rules are man-made to fit in rules. There was the law. Paul, the apostle, told us it was to show us our need for God and His Son since there’s no way we can perfectly keep it. Our relationship with Him spills out into every other sphere of our lives by His Spirit. The first and greatest commandment is love. Him first, everyone next. Great post!!!👍🌻🌻🙏😀

    • Levi, thank you as always.

      Fit in rules. What a delightfully sad phrase. And you – a bad boy? That deserves many more words – eliciting a very human curiosity on my part 🙂

      What lingers, even with my words, your words, others’ words is this. That rules are rules. And Jesus might have re-interpreted them, challenged the embroidery – yet came to fulfil the law. I sense he is walking me through something I find muddies the message. And right now I can see the mud, not yet the synergy, the clarity. Because if love is all we need … why the rest?

      Make any sense?

      • Paul, the law (rules) are the perfect standard; but none are perfect save Christ. He is our substitute for us breaking these rules. If you are speaking of every rule everywhere then we would have anarchy without any. Thus, we have the standards for man set out in Scripture in order to live peaceably with one another. There are many rules laid out for us that are men’s rules, based upon only their ideas and not Gods.

        I originally thought you were speaking only about breaking God’s law. We are to submit to authority over us unless it contradicts God’s. Yes, we will always live under rules.

        The bad boy talk can only be done by email. Lol.😀😃😊

  9. Interesting that this should come along now. I’ve just been meditating again on this verse: “And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” 1 John 3v23. This is the verse that got me out of legalism 3 years ago. Just thinking about it again now and asking, “Is that all? Is that really all the rules, just those two things?” Extraordinary.

    • Hiya Jo, and thank you. That simplicity is a brain stopper – and starter!
      I know, and yet I don’t. I do, and then I don’t. Extraordinary indeed. With such simplicity, why the preference to reject that in favour of complexity?
      And even with acceptance, why the (my perceived and observed) need so often to be publicly grateful, perpetually unworthy and institutionally shove a wedge between us and Him with ritual and right.
      Not sure if that adds anything, if not He remains so very patient with my splashing around.
      🙂

  10. Having grown up with lots of rules and trying very hard all my life to please God I was blown away by the fact that Jesus gives us ONE. A new commandment I give you–that you LOVE one another. And doesn’t love sometimes really mess with all the rule giving and rule following–especially the religious culture rules that keep us boxed in and held back by loving certain people?

    • Paula, thank you … The reply below I hope makes some kind of sense. Because reading these comments, my brain is spinning. Which seems to be how He likes it from time to time 🙂

    • What a gorgeous addition! And in the same vein, I guess my reply to Jo would have been as convoluted under your wonderful comment. Boxed in and held back – describes so beautifully such a sad truth.

  11. I read all the post from everyone and thought they were all so interesting and held truth to them. I also agree with Levi’s comment completely. I think I have always disliked rules. I do like to set my own though. I think for me rules bring on a fear. God said fear not what man can do to you. He loves me so much. How can I not just accept that. This world has been a mess for a long time. That is why he sent his son. I like the comment from a veido I watched the other day. I was naked and afraid. Adams comment to God. Rules bring on a lot of fear. Yet there is so much love here on earth in this time for me. God’s presence is everywhere. Much love to all.

    • Something that surprised me in the comments is the range of “values” each of gets/brings to rules. “Rules bring on a lot of fear” – yet I am learning that the absence of rules brings on a lot of fear for some as well.

      And your (Adam’s) quote – I was naked and afraid. Are rules a little like a cloak we hide behind? For some an itchy scratchy kind of cloak, and for others a welcome covering cloak. Something is working its way around my head – that maybe Jesus teaching was not about “how to keep rules” – rather how to not to keep rules – and learning through that what rules really are. All very vague. All jumbled. All connected (I think!) 🙂

      Much love to you and yours – I love it when you stop by with some thoughts.

  12. Paul,

    Each chapter you scribe breathes fresh insight into who you are and causes me to reflect on my own journey with Christ. You are among my favorite teachers of God’s Word and His Truth for you speak with such raw transparency. You write without fear and hold nothing back. You present the truth of your faith and connect with people on a level most pastors can’t or won’t reach. Thank you for your opening the book of your life to us, for letting us see that we are not alone in our walk. Each chapter gives me the confidence to let go of the chains of my past and move bravely into my tomorrow with Christ.

    I lived in bondage to man-made rules in church for too many years. I still feel the tremors from time to time of their bone-deep effect on my life. Those Pharisaical “traditions” nearly kept me from a relationship with my Father. Luckily for me, my Father’s voice was sweeter than the restrictive condescension of the rule-writers’ voices. They pummeled me (and everyone else in the church) with things like: wearing pants is a sin (for women, obviously); makeup is the sign of a whore; jewelry is immodest and God frowns on it; women shall wear their hair in a bun to show their respect for God; etc. I was so concerned about my outward appearance that I neglected the most substantial piece of me: my heart.

    I sat in the midst of the somber atmosphere, my own guilt berating me into quiet submission. I pried open the pages of the KJV Bible (the only “acceptable” translation) and found words but no understanding. I listened as the people around me spoke their testimony, hoping to receive insight but felt empty and beaten. The people spoke often of how they were the only ones Christ saved and would be the only ones ascending to heaven. Because I wasn’t abiding by the rules, I was an “outsider”. An unwelcome squatter in a no-vacancy building.

    For years I didn’t believe I could “fit” within the confines of this corset Christianity. All the rules and traditions left little room to breathe.

    And then I met Jesus. Not the Jesus of that legalistic prison, but the Jesus of scripture who told me that He is the Way to salvation. Not a church. Not a building. Not a set of rules. Belief in Him would save me. Confessing with my mouth that He is Lord of my life and that God raised Him from the dead would save me. Not wearing a skirt or putting my hair in a bun.

    I began to read scripture after scripture where Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites for their rituals. Jesus sees our hearts. It’s our hearts that need cleaning. Our hearts need Him.

    I look back on those dark days of my first experiences with Christ and am grateful I now live in His glorious light. Who would think that “Christianity” could be so dark? Man-made rules do that to a person…to a heart. It took a long time for me to overcome the captive mentality and see my freedom in Christ.

    I thank Him for giving me hope and showing me that His name is Love.

    Thanks, Paul. You always bring me to my knees in gratefulness to my Father and bringing me to tears of joy for being blessed with your friendship.

    • Eighteen months your words have been sitting here without me realising. And yet they are as fresh today as they were then. Your journey – my journey – still one of connection in Him and of Him. I need to apologise for not responding. Sorry.
      And yet …

      If I had responded 18 months ago I would probably have scooted past your words. Job done. Reply done. Get to Roland underneath your words.
      So He and you have paused me today. Reminded me of your deep pool swimming. How you breathe underwater as you see stuff. How you show me so much simply by how you see stuff.

      Heather, I am reminded how much I miss your words, the connection we have – and why. I am reminded there is an email from you still waiting for a reply. I am reminded of so much “daily living stuff” that is so easy to feel remorse and “I should have”.
      And yet …

      I read your words written here and all I feel is joy. Joy that you are you and I am me and He is the connecting love between, and in, all of us.

      I have two family members recently united in fighting their own cancers. It is a connection they have. I prefer the connection we have.

      ((hugs))

  13. And I thought I was the only one who disliked rules!! Great post, Paul and yes, cutting honest, right to the truth without gloss! Yep, my God was one just waiting for me to break one of the rules; and the size of that stick He was holding, just waiting to pummel me! Until I looked up and saw His arms outstretched to me in the most inviting embrace I could have ever imagined! Changed my life in the middle of a church service one Sunday. I will NEVER forget it!

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