Saturday, June 29, 2013

Promptings of the heart

One of the most significant things Jesus offered, it seems to me, was the understanding that it's not always about playing by the rules.  The most important test of right and wrong, for him, was love: what was the loving thing to do?

I've always felt that was true for writing, too: I grew up in an era when we were taught how to diagram sentences, so I have a deep-seated understanding of grammar and sentence construction.  But I think flow and understandability are more important than rules, and that it's a sign of a writer's maturity that she is willing, having understood the rules, to set them aside for the sake of grace and meaning.

Photography, too, has its rules, and this image clearly breaks the rule of thirds with its centered horizon and centered mountain peak.  But I'm posting it anyway -- because I like it, and because I believe, with Emerson, that "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds."

It seems to me that parenting follows the same sort of pattern: it's important, first of all, for our children to learn basic rules -- my mother-in-law used to say that parenting was about teaching our children to be civilized, to be good citizens.  But over time we need to free our children to make mistakes, to learn which rules are bendable, which are breakable, and what kinds of consequences may ensue.

And for me, the spiritual life has followed this pattern as well.  Though I discovered faith at an early age, I had an intense conversion experience as a teenager and became rather embarrassingly evangelical for a while.  When it became clear that system of rules was painfully exclusive of much of humanity, I left Christianity as I had known it and explored other paths.  And then, in my early thirties, I found Christianity again, this time through a conviction of Jesus' love and forgiveness of ALL humanity (and me in particular) -- which faith held me in good stead for many years, until my experience of "church" became so intolerable I needed to wander off again.

It was the Gospel of Thomas, and Jesus' wisdom expressed therein, that brought me round to Christianity again, by helping me to understand that the story of Jesus' life is not as important to faith as the teachings, and the teachings are not about rules but about openness and acceptance as an expression and reflection of loving and being loved.

I'm probably not articulating that last bit particularly well -- I'm growing increasingly conscious of how long this post is becoming (another rule I am reluctant to break).  But all of this is to say that yes, rules are useful.  But in the end, I believe, if we are to be fully, truly human, it is important to learn to trust the promptings of the heart...


Peregrino said...

Diane, your post brought to mind a quote I came across in Common Ground (Greely & Neusner) many years ago: "After Easter, the proclaimer became the proclaimed. The messenger became the message. The story teller became the story. I’ve always suspected that Jesus may not be altogether pleased with this development. He did not want questions about his precise credentials and nature to interfere with the stories he was telling, the picture of God to which he was bearing witness. For much of Christian history, that is precisely what has happened. Folks are so busy debating about who Jesus was and is, that they seem to have very little time to listen to his stories or ponder his message” John

Patricia Turner said...

I re-discovered the work of Freeman Patterson this past week and in his wonderful book "Photography and the Art of Seeing" he talks about breaking the rules in his chapter "Thinking Sideways". We all benefit from this approach from time to time.

Debra said...

Breaking the rules has been something I have had to learn to do. :) I appreciate your post on all areas: writing, photography, and spirituality. Sometimes as I write, the rules get in the way and I struggle whether to use the rule at that time or not. I need to grow in my writing skills and in my letting go of them. Photography is an area I have only played with since a kid and don't know too many rules to break, though I have taken a course once. I simply shoot what catches my eye and/or imagination. This is an area I would like to learn and grown in more if/as time allows. Spirituality.... Jesus is a great role model for me here. He broke rules. Yet, he did so in love for others and for a greater cause than the rules themselves. I don't always follow that well, but I try to recognize that if I believe strongly enough in something to break a rule, then I'm in decent company. :)

Thanks for the opportunity to reflect!