Had an interesting thought this morning–you can’t be both rigid and relational. Not really. Rigidity tends to squash relationships. Some of you are really bugged that I didn’t capitalize rigid in the title. You might be one of those who feels there is only one way and it’s yours–doesn’t leave much room for another person–their thoughts, wishes, idiosyncrasies. Don’t feel bad, I’ve spent some time in that camp.
I grew up there. My mother believed their was only one way to do things and it was hers. But she wasn’t rigid about her perspective on people. Maybe it’s because she’d been talking to God since she was 12. Literally, she would hear Him speaking to her through scripture–the first time was when she was 12 sitting out under a tree watching the sunset and reading Isaiah 43.
I didn’t think of that right off this morning, though; I thought about how I’ve had to grow out of my belief that God is rigid, because of course He couldn’t be, He is too relational. Many times I’ve told Him, “You give us way too much freedom!” When I’ve been realizing how easily we make mistakes–sometimes big ones–even when we are well-intentioned.
I guess I thought He was rigid because I believed you have to do things His way–like my mother. Scripture is full of details God gave to people, especially his “chosen people”. You can come away thinking God is pickyunish (that’s worse than just picky).
But here we must understand two things: one, He was setting up a symbolic system of teaching. Anything you didn’t follow to the letter destroyed the message He was trying to give. It got distorted because they were into just doing it and not understanding the symbolism or Him, which was why He gave it.
The second is that He wanted to bless them, not magically, but through living within the laws of their beings. He knows how humans work and what they need physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally. So he gave them His “wisdom”–His laws–the way things work– so they could live in harmony with themselves and nature and be healthy.
He wanted them to be Blessed Beyond Belief, the head, and not the tail of all nations. He wanted to show the world (and the universe) that He was good and could be trusted, through them. Most of all He wanted a relationship with each person, but they weren’t good at understanding that. They’d come from slavery where the focus was obedience, and when they got free it was time to party! (“we can do whatever we want”).
God knew better than “If you love them they’ll be good,” where love is letting them do whatever they want. He knew they needed strong boundaries. (Lack of boundaries is the biggest problem in parenting today.) Imagine taking 3,000,000 fifth-graders camping!
They needed boundaries because of their mentality. Children need them to feel secure and loved. “No” is more important than “yes” as a parent. It provides security and strength–freedom within boundaries develops personhood. Children who have all the power in a system feel crazy and out-of-control. Many of them suffer from anxiety.
So while sometimes God looks rigid in the Old Testament scriptures, maybe the best word to describe Him and good parenting is purposeful. The way he related was related to the needs and collective consciousness of the people. His principles never change, but his methods and rules often do. God is so relational in the Old and New Testaments that most people think it’s two different beings. But it was the people and their needs, their perspectives, that changed so drastically.
If God is anything, He is relational, even quantum physics is showing us that!