on legalism, grace, and skinny naked legs
So I'm back. I got home from my writers' conference, realized that for the first time in months, I didn't have a looming deadline or teaching engagement staring at me, and felt a yearning to clean like you can't believe. I don't mean wipe-the-counter cleaning. I mean move-all-the-furniture cleaning. It's amazing how much joy you can derive from scrubbing the floor when you haven't been free to do so for months.
So I didn't blog yesterday. I may not have blogged today either, since the cleaning mood is still raging over me and I've got a frightened closet whimpering in the background even as I type -- except that my daughter said something on the way to school that caused my heart to race and my face to go all flush. I'm fuming right now, and if I don't vent on you, I may just scrub the paint off the walls.
Our children go to a Christian school in the area. We homeschooled for years, but when Zac hit puberty and we both started donning boxing gloves every morning before meeting over the breakfast table, Dave wisely decided I should go back to being Mom and retire my teaching hat. I cried for three days at the time, but I can see he was right. It's so nice to be their champion at the end of the day instead of their dictator (please don't take offense at that if you're a homeschooler yourself. I'm only describing myself. I was Herr Schoolmaster, there at the end, and I'm glad to be done with that persona.) Take today, for instance. The house is clean, the candles are lit (it's very dark and cloudy right now, just the way I like it) and a fresh batch of almond poppy-seed muffins are cooling on the counter and awaiting my always-hungry duo. When the kids get home, we'll have missed each other. I'm content.
Except about what Tera said. Today is Tuesday, which means they have an hour of chapel in the morning. The rule at the school is that you must wear nicer clothes on Tuesdays than you would on ordinary days. I've had issues with that for the past few years, and last year I vented a bit about that on one of my friends, who happens to teach at the school. A boy in her class had been sent home (by the principal) to change clothes, since he forgot about chapel and showed up in shorts -- shorts with ragged edges, no less.
The boy in question goes to our church, so he's definitely getting two conflicting messages on this clothing issue. Calvary Chapel is about as informal as you can get. We're big on two things: Jesus, and the Word. In fact, we're so consumed with those two things that we have no energy left over to expend on dress codes. We just want you to come, and as long as all the appropriate parts are covered, we don't much care what you look like. Some people like to dress up, but the vast majority just wear whatever is most comfortable. We have a few guys who wear shorts to church all year long. One guy refuses to wear long-legged jeans. Says the last time he did that was at his wedding. We tease him every time it snows.
I pointed all this out to my teacher-friend. And I explained my main issue with the school's stance. I said, "What you're really telling these kids is that God is more pleased with them when they dress up." She saw my point, but defended the school and pointed out that we have 44 different churches represented, some of which are very conservative, and went on to say that it's good for the kids to learn respect. I didn't see a correlation between respect and God's view of bare-legged boys, but I like my friend and I didn't want to keep her squished there between our friendship and her loyalty to her employer. So I dropped it.
Jump to this morning. Today is Field Day at the school, which is kind of their own miniature, end-of-the-year Olympics. Tera has been jazzed about this for months. She loves to run and has spent the last two weeks "practicing." She's a Tazmanian blur as she races past my window; I'd know it was her even if I didn't know it was her, just by the the little blonde pony tail trailing horizontally in her wake.
We bought some shorts for the occasion -- black with white racing stripes down the sides. She liked them so much, she decided to wear them not just for Field Day, but all day. The conflict didn't dawn on me until we were on our way to the shuttle and it was too late to do anything about it.
"Hey!" I said, turning to look back at her in the car. "Isn't today chapel?"
"Yep," she answered.
"But you're in shorts. Did you bring something to change into for chapel?"
"Nope," my oh-so-talkative daughter replied.
"Won't you get in trouble?" I asked. I had visions of the school secretary calling me to fetch my rule-breaking daughter and bring her home to change clothes.
"Isn't it still a rule that you dress up on Tuesdays?" I prodded.
"Then you'll get in trouble," I insisted.
"No," she said. "I won't get in trouble. They'll just make me sit in a different seat."
I didn't like the sound of that. "What do you mean a different seat? Where will you have to sit?"
"I'll just have to move back a few rows away from all the other kids."
Even as I type those words, my heart is working itself up again to a raging tempo. A different seat? Away from the other kids?
Is my daughter contagious?
Or is she simply inappropriate, less-respectable, unfit and unworthy ... because she's in shorts??
There is nothing, and I mean nothing, that gets me riled up like legalism. I don't know the God of those who draw lines in the sand and defy others to step over. Don't get me wrong -- I know God has established rules and I trust His wisdom. I know that sin is sin and we can't whitewash behavior just because society has a habit of changing the rules that make them squirm. That gets me riled up, too. But I'm not talking about black and white issues, issues God clearly addresses in Scripture (adultery, homosexuality, sex outside marriage, lying, coveting, slander, murder, etc. -- and yes, He has shared His opinion on all those matters.). I'm talking about those gray areas where God has remained silent. Issues like whether or not it's okay for a child to wear shorts on a Tuesday morning while they sing worship songs and hear a story from the Bible. I'm talking about piercings and tattoos and mohawks and dredlocks and jeans on Sunday -- and all the people I love and fellowship with who have and/or wear those things.
Doesn't Scripture tell us that "Man looks on the outside, but God sees the heart?" Isn't that what we're trying to reach with our good news -- the hearts of those who are hurting?
I have half a mind to draw a big sign with a single word on it: "Grace" and picket that school today. If I didn't think my children would die of embarrassment, I just might.
We've been rethinking our school options for next year. This may have settled that question.