I've been reading in the psalms lately and have noticed a common trend that I found bizarre. The psalmists spend a lot of time thanking God for his rules/law/precepts/ordinances etc. I don't know that I have ever thanked God for his law, so I've been thinking about this a bit and have come up with some parallels in my every day life that help me to understand gratitude for rules.
1. Job Descriptions
Imagine being hired for a job with no specific job description. Or being a builder without a blueprint to follow. Or perhaps just having a supervisor who has vague expectations for each task-- write a letter, crunch the numbers, give me a budget. A letter to whom? About what? Is it formal? Informal? And what numbers do you want crunched? (I think of the Office here.) How much money do I have to work with in order to establish this budget? What are your priorities? I think you get the idea. When there are no clear objectives, no clear guidelines or rules, there is no basis by which to begin a relationship. No definition of the terms -- are you my boss, my co-worker, or am I your boss? But when I have a clear and specific objective for a task or position, I operate much better because I know exactly what is expected of me. The framework within which I work might be very rigid and defined, but it is within that definition that I find the freedom to do the work I've been given. I am not chained to doubt and confusion.
There are days when we need to shake up our schedule a bit. We stay out later, push back dinner, skip a nap, wake up earlier. Once in a while doesn't seem to do too much damage, but several days in a row of missed sleep or poor eating habits and my children turn into demons in training, or begin to appear as if they are possessed by demons. They wake up screaming in the middle of the night (night terrors?) and have a hard time waking up in the morning. They cry about everything. But, when we get them back on a schedule, give them the proper foods to eat at the proper times of the day, and make sure they are sleeping enough, they return to the energetic happy people they were before the shift in their lives. The structure provided them gives them the boundaries within which to live the fullest and healthiest life.
I love sugar. Three spoonfuls in my tea in the mornings, three spoonfuls in my tea at lunch, several semi-sweet chocolates a day, a couple of scoops of brown sugar in my oatmeal, a quick munch on a chocolate-covered cookie dough truffle... mmmm. Sugar.
Brandon and I are on day three of the Whole-30 Challenge, a detox type diet that eliminates all grains, sugar, dairy, legumes, white potatoes, and other unpronouncable ingredients in food. There's a specific list of foods we are supposed to avoid in order to help our systems "reset" from all of the junk we put into our bodies. On day one of this diet, I had the maddest craving for sugar I have ever had in my life. All I could think about was how badly I wanted chocolate. I needed chocolate. It was nuts. I even had a headache most of the day from the sugar withdrawal.
But after just two days of following this regimented diet, both Brandon and I are feeling markedly better. I feel less heavy and slow; his stomach isn't bothering him nearly as much as it usually does. We are disciplining ourselves to cook and eat healthier, to deprive ourselves of fulfilling every desire of the flesh (SUGAR!!!!) and to feed ourselves the food that will make the vehicle run the best.
I am thankful for these kinds of systems and guidelines in my life, because by operating within clear precepts and laws, I have the freedom to live a full and healthy life. It only makes sense, then, to praise God for the same laws and rules he's provided to give structure and direction for how to live the healthiest and fullest of lives on Earth. Even more so with the Holy Spirit living within us to serve as our guide. So, praise God for his laws and his rules, for the system he has established to instruct, rebuke, correct, and restore.