Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Those Pesky Instructions - What are They Really for?

It happens every year. Something has to be assembled at our house for Christmas - some gift. This year it turned out to be gas logs for our fireplace. (And, first glance at the instructions, it turned out they weren't the right thing, so back they went to be exchanged. They are still sitting in their box as far as I know.)

Through the years, many boxes have come and gone. Inside each was a bunch of papers with very detailed instructions about assembling the pieces so that in the end they will resemble the picture on the outside of the box. (Assuming, of course, that all necessary parts are included in the box!)

I have one approach to such projects, and my husband has a totally different one. I want to take the shortest, straightest, fastest line from the jumble of pieces to the resemblance of the picture on the front of the box. I am frustrated and threatened by the complexity of the instructions. The truth is that I would prefer to either hand the instructions off to someone else or leave them in the bottom of the box. Neither approach is particularly helpful in getting pieces assembled into the whole whatever that looks like the picture on the box.

John, on the other hand, is quite delighted to pull out all the pieces and carefully read through the instructions. He may enjoy "variations on the theme" of the instructions simply because he does like to "reinvent the wheel," but he finds reading the instructions interesting in and of themselves. My eyes glaze over and I freeze at the thought of having to plod through the instructions.

John also likes to be left alone to assemble "the whatever" so he can concentrate. Time is of no consequence as the goal is to follow the instructions and carefully put the item together. Neither of us enjoys being in the vicinity when the other is assembling somethiing. I drive John crazy with my get-it-done approach. He drives me crazy with his willingness to take however long it takes to methodically address the task. His way is much safer and also possibly much more productive over the long haul. He successfully puts many more such projects together than I do. (Actually it's no contest as I am quite happy to leave that chore to him under most circumstances.)

This is a parable of life. Life comes with instructions. We have many, many sets of them sitting on various shelves and places in our home. We sometimes even carry these instructions around with us from place to place. HOWEVER the instructions are only helpful when we open them and read what they have to say and begin the process of applying the instructions to the circumstances of life in that day. These instructions for life have many counterfeits, but the real thing is God's Word! God has told us what to do to make life work.

Therein is another parable. The manufacturer of the product is best able to detail instructions for assembly. The Creator knows how life works and why. His instructions are the ones that work. His instructions are also the only ones that will get us to look like the "picture on the box" - what the Designer/Creator intended in the first place.

I think God is far less concerned with whether we just read the instructions than He is with whether we use those instructions to enter into the relationship He wants to have with us. He wants us to engage with His instructions (the Bible) and with Him. We can read the instructions all day, but unless God's instructions connect with our hearts and our hearts connect with God's heart, we are going through motions with no substance and no purpose being served in the end.

The Bible is full of all kinds of instructions. It is easy to get lost in the details of the instructions. Many people have. Jesus boiled all the instructions down to just two (that's more my speed): Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27)

We can try to do life assembly either doing it "my way" or studying the instructions so minutely that we get lost in the instructions and miss the main point. Assembling life (making life work) is not the final goal in this life project. Life works best in relationship: relationship with God and with each other. Jesus said it: Loving God with all my heart is the only instruction that really counts. When I do that, then I love my neighbor as a natural consequence of loving God totally.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out. It just takes a heart willing to love God and follow His instructions - even when they seem pesky!

No comments: