Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Spirit of the Law

"I just have two rules," I told the kids, as Asherel and her friends, Josh and Emma, tied their kayaks to the reeds at our favorite swimming sandbar, "No diving- always hit the water feet first. Secondly, when you take off your life jackets, or put down your paddles, be sure everything goes in the boat. When they release the dam water, the water level rises and if it is on the sandbar, it will float away."
The kids all nodded.
"I am just going to kayak along the shore line, but I will always be in sight," I told them.

So, any of you who have kids know what happened next. First, I slid quietly up one shore across from them, and right away noticed they were skim boarding on the sandbar, and there were two life jackets on the sandbar, in the shallow water. I kayaked back.
"Remember rule number two. Nothing can be out of the boat or it will float away," I admonished.
Then I kayaked away up the other shore, but heard Josh say to Emma, as he was teaching her to skim board, "Have you ever had stitches?"
"No," said Emma.
"Then you have not really lived!" cried Josh.

I stayed close, watching them for a while. They seemed to be safe, so I circled in larger circles, keeping them in my sights, but loving the peace and beauty of the river shores. I saw a Great Blue Heron trying to remain hidden in the shore reeds. Then I heard a bird screeching and noticed a huge Bald Eagle in the top of a dead tree. At least I think it was a Bald Eagle. It had a white head. It was calling to another large bird swooping in the sky nearby. Then the eagle flapped enormous wings and began to circle with the other bird. They flew in tandem, in an elaborate aerial dance. Swooping, rising, turning, flapping all in synchrony. And then in the distance, the coordinated flight ended and they flew in separate directions. I sighed, filled with the peace and joy of it all.

I glanced back at the kids. They had overturned one kayak and were standing on it in the deeper water. I noticed with satisfaction that all the lifejackets and oars were inside the other boats. Rule number two was being followed. However, then I saw my daughter leap into the air and do a flip. She had never done a flip, to the best of my knowledge. I realized that I had not been explicit enough with Rule number one. Technically, if a flip is done correctly, one does indeed hit the water feet first, but otherwise, it has all the dangers of a severed vertebrae as the neck hits submerged logs as diving would. These are good kids, I thought as I paddled quickly over. I was sure that they had discussed Rule Number One before the three of them began flipping off the boat.
I am certain this is how the conversation went:
Josh: "Can you do a flip, Asherel?"
Asherel: "No, but I've never tried."
Josh: "Then you haven't lived!"
Emma: "Josh, I know what you are thinking. What about Rule #1?"
Josh: "Let's examine that. As you recall, the rule was we must enter the water feet first, correct?"
Girls: "Correct."
Josh: "When one does a properly executed flip, you enter the water feet first."
Asherel: "What if you do an improperly executed flip?"
Josh:  " We will only do properly executed flips."
Emma: "I'm not sure this is following the spirit of the law...."
Josh: "The spirit of the law involves keeping us safe and returning us whole to our parents, correct?"
Girls: "Correct."
Josh: "Someone who has never done a flip is not returning whole to her parent. She is but a shell of what a teenager should be, thus, it is only by doing the flip that we are following the full spirit of Rule #1."

As I was kayaking over, I was pretty sure the conversation I imagined had been accurate. Asherel later verified I had been correct. Josh is one of my favorite people on earth, but one must consider all wiggle room in setting rules with Josh. His parents must collapse at the end of the day. However, as I kayaked over,  I saw all three of them doing perfect flips. Asherel had mentioned earlier in the summer she wished she could do a flip. I remembered doing flips into swimming pools as a child, and feeling that if I could master a flip, I could conquer the world.
"Oh Lord," I prayed as I kayaked near, "Give me the right heart, the right words."

I pulled up to the kids.
"Ok, I am sure you all discussed this and decided that flips were ok, since you are entering the water feet first....right?"
They all nodded and waited for me to handcuff them and throw them in the boat and drag them back in a floating prisoner line.
"Ok, then here is the new rule. Before flipping, I want one of you to check underwater in the area where the kid is flipping into and make sure there are no submerged logs. Secondly, I want you all to tell your parents when I bring you home with a broken neck that it is not my fault."
"Deal!" they cried.
"And be sure you are only flipping in water over your head."

I kayaked off again, but not quite as far, and bobbed under the shade of an overhanging tree, watching them.  A whole flotilla of other kayakers had now docked at the sandbar, and other kids had flipped their kayaks over and were doing flips into the river.

I thought about laws and rules. I am a rule bound person. I know rules are in place to protect us, but rules can also become the source of life, rather than the appropriate containment of life. I don't think rules are made to be broken, but I do think sometimes rules strangle what they are meant to save.  Jesus recognized that when He was accused of breaking the sabbath to gather corn from a field to feed Himself and His disciples on the Sabbath.
"The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath," He explained to those who would hold the Rule more holy than the life the rule was made to honor and protect.

Being a parent is not easy. No child would survive without parental rules. But sometimes......
I watched my daughter do a back flip and found it more awe inspiring than the eagle circling heaven.

Romans 7:
6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

Mark 2:26-28

26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”
 27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

No comments:

Post a Comment