I have been a rule follower for many years, and I am done. This is my manifesto. 

Don't make my mistake, and whatever you do, absolutely do not follow the rules. They will not get you anywhere except exhausted, overwhelmed, and burned out. 

They will not bring you closer to Jesus, and they will not bring you closer to others as well. You may look the part and say and do all the right things, but inside, you'll be frustrated and aggravated by the way you can't do or any anything remotely authentic. And it will eat at you. 

Day and night, night and day, like a battery acid chipping at your soul.

You may gain things. Initially. 

But slowly and little by little, the price you pay to stay in the club will become a ransom that includes betraying your very self. You won't enjoy it. 

The smiles will become falser, and the pretense you'll have to adopt will become heavier and more burdensome day by day. 

You'll want to quit, but you've invested so much by this point, that you'll risk losing everything you have, including your reputation. They'll give you things for playing along, but in the end, it is not worth it. It never is. 

Right now, for some, the rules include fitting into traditional gender roles that pass for being biblical, excluding anybody who is different from the group, and pretending anxiety and depression do not exist. 

It may mean having the right car and a certain hairdo, and it almost certainly means people of other races are not included. If they are, we absolutely can't talk about racism. We may shout slogans that discount the thinking original thoughts, and we may prefer people of a higher socioeconomic realm than most. 

It may mean that we don't talk about divorce or cheating or scandal or abuse even when they're happening right under our noses. We'll keep it all in. Our feelings, and our thoughts, and our benevolences, and our dreams. We won't stick up for the underdog.

We'll follow the rules. We'll wear our long robes and sit in the best seats, and everyone will greet us like we are somebody important. Because we are. But it's just a show we're putting on. 

We'll follow the rules of acting bland but just 'crazy' enough to post a silly meme to Facebook every once in a while. We'll say we love our neighbor by thinking or praying for him or her, but God forbid, we actually go to his or her house with a bowl of soup and a fistful of money. 

God forbid we welcome the downtrodden in our home or offer them a ride to school. 

We can't let it show that we're human beings.

I give up. I may have to go live in figurative wilderness or desert somewhere, but I cannot do this. Anymore.

I quit. 

I do not quit the church, and I definitely don't quit Jesus, but I what I absolutely quit is following all these petty, ridiculous rules. I don't want to join some silly club where it's fifth grade all over again, and we don't talk to so-and-so, because she's not wearing the right shoes. 

I am more exhausted and burnt out than I have ever been in my life, and I am giving up. I am giving in, because I cannot do this anymore. I wanted to be a rule-follower, because I thought it's what I had to do to get this thing right. And in the process, I got it absolutely wrong. 

Dead wrong.

I didn't gain anything, but what I want so badly, more badly than anything is Jesus.

Just Jesus. 

And if you're reading this and you like to follow the rules and you're wondering what has made me so 'angry', know a few things. 

One, I am not angry. I am disappointed. Two, if you don't understand now, someday you will. Someday, it'll be you who is worn out when all you've ever done are all the 'right' things. Someday it will be you who feels all alone, wondering when you will ever truly just get to be yourself. 

Someday, it will be your dreams skewered on the fire as just another sacrifice you have to make to the gods of popularity. Someday it will be you that wonders why we ignore most of what the Bible says about compassion and love for our neighbor. Someday you may be the neighbor in need of a hot meal or just some concern from your brother or your sister. 

In the meantime, whoever and where ever you are, before it's too late, I urge you this with everything I have and am: don't follow the rules. 

Love God, and love your neighbor with everything you have. Don't be afraid of other people. Don't look down when you pass people by. Make eye contact. 

Understand that God didn't save us to put us in these strange 1950s gender stereotype roles and that being a Christian is bold, gutsy, and an invitation to the misfit and the outcast and the poor and the leper.

It is freedom, sweet freedom. It is the ability to follow God wildly with every fibre that exists in your being. It is a love as strong as death, a passion that went to the cross, and a song that sings in your heart into eternity.

If the rules could have saved anybody, Jesus would not have had to die. 

Rules bring about a slow death, but Jesus came to give us life and life more abundantly.  

Next week, we'll discuss the costs to being free, and you can subscribe below to receive that email next Monday. 

Stay Gutsy,

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Rosa A. Hopkins

Radio Show Host. Writer of words. Teller of stories. Singer of songs. Dreamer of dreams. Owner of a shapeless hound. Musician. Recording Artist. Songwriter. Record Label Owner. Producer. Hater of Coffee. Lover. Friend. Mother. Not all at the same time though.

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