When trying to teach our one-year-old about things he is (and is not) allowed to do, we run into a couple problems. One is that, since he can't communicate except in grunts, waves, and "diddle-diddle" baby-talk, it's hard to know how well he understands what we're telling him. If we tell him not to stand on the sofa, does he understand what a "sofa" is? And does he understand what it means to "stand"?
The second problem is that he has not yet developed much impulse control, so if we inundate him with rules to follow, we will be constantly correcting him. There are only so many hours in a day, and we don't want to spend them all saying to him, "We told you not to do that!"
So, as our son is developing understanding and impulse control, we are careful to keep our instructions to him at a simple and minimal level. Most of the "dos and don'ts" we give him divide into two primary categories:
1. Instructions that are for his own benefit/safety. For example, we are strict about not letting him stand on the sofa, or take things out of the trash can, because the first activity could easily result in injury, and the second activity -- well, let's face it -- the trash can is not the most sanitary object in any home!
2. Instructions for the benefit/safety of those around him. For example, we have a diabetic cat, and if he eats "people food," he gets sick. Thus, we are strict about our son not throwing his food on the floor.
There is a third category of "dos and don'ts" which we try not to delve into too deeply:
3. Instructions that are for our own convenience. For example, even though we don't let him get into the trash can, we have never told him that he's not allowed to unload the diaper bag all over the floor. There's nothing in there that's dangerous for him, and while it's a nuisance to repack the bag, we feel that there are more important "dos and don'ts" for him to learn first.
The goal in all of this is to have a set of rules that are not overwhelming for either our one-year-old or us. Are we succeeding? I don't know, and perhaps it'll be a very long time before I do know. But as I thought about all of this, it occurred to me that what we're trying to do is to emulate our Heavenly Father in the way He gives commands to us.
1 John 5:3 says that "His commandments are not burdensome." Doesn't God do for us (perfectly) what we are trying (imperfectly) to do for our son? God's commands are neither burdensome nor self-serving. His commandments to us fall -- for the most part -- into two basic categories: commands that are in our own best interest, and commands that are for the benefit of those around us.
If I can appreciate that my rules for my son are reasonable, wise (hopefully!), and beneficial to our household, can I not trust that God's rules for me are even more reasonable, wise, and beneficial?
When I was a kid, our house had a kitchen and a dining room, and there was a wall, with a doorway, between the two.
That wall is no longer there. At some point while I was growing up, my parents decided they'd had enough of that wall. They wanted to have one large, wide open room, instead of two smaller rooms.
So dad took a sledgehammer to the wall and knocked it out. Of course, when they built the house in the first place, they knew that someday they might want to get rid of that wall, so they were careful to build the house in such a way that this wall was not a load-bearing wall. It was supporting nothing. Nothing else anywhere in the house depended on it. It was, in a nutshell, useless.
The book of Ephesians tells us this:
1 Peter 2:4 adds to this image by telling us that we are not just stones in a building, but we are living stones, growing together as God has fitted us together.
But as God is building His house, He is not putting in any useless stones. There is no part of His church that He could point at and say, "That living stone there doesn't support anything. Nothing else in My house depends on that living stone. That living stone is, in a nutshell, useless. I could take a sledgehammer to that living stone and it wouldn't affect anything else in the building."
We are all "load bearing" in the church. God has fit us together perfectly, designing each of us to bear and carry a load which was specifically designed for us. Galatians tells us this:
The good news is that the load is not an unbearable load; Jesus said in Matthew:
In 1 John, John reiterates these words by assuring his readers that:
The loads we are each given are not unbearable, or unreasonable. But they are our burdens to carry. And in carrying our own load, we support and strengthen all the other living stones in the building with us, strengthening the entire structure. It is an exciting realization to understand that we are fitted so perfectly together by God, but with that realization comes an exciting responsibility as well -- to build up, strengthen, and support the living stones all around us, who shoulder their loads side by side with us.