I have a few very strong personality characteristics. Sometimes they are strengths and sometimes, well, they get me into trouble.
Take for instance, being a rule follower…. not a bad thing, right? I like knowing what is expected of me and inserting myself into neat little check-boxes showing that I’ve completed the task and followed the guidelines.
Strength: I don’t get speeding tickets and I went two whole years in high school without getting a tardy. If I get into trouble for something, it only happens once and I’ve learned my lesson. I know the rules to most board games as well as most grammar and spelling rules. I’m a good baker because it turns out better when you follow a recipe, but I am not a creative cook, nor ever will be. I’m predictable.
Weakness(es): I hold people to this impossible standard of behavior and I assume that everyone around me has this same internal compass. (now that you know this about me…please don’t go running…it’s a weakness I’ve long been aware of and have learned how to filter my response and have seen the necessity of having the opposite personality).
I don’t do well in situations where there is no list of rules based on western logic and what we call, common sense. (I’m not saying my logic and common sense is better than other cultures’ values…it’s just that I interpret everything through this lens). So when I lived in China…I could not grasp the concept that saving face was more important than the rule broken. And when I lived in Uganda, where the rules were grey and changed depending on who you talked to, I floundered and missed the foundation of the rule, that every Ugandan inherently knew. It’s a good thing Mandie lived there with me. I’m not saying she’s a rule breaker…but she instinctively understands culture and people and what their true values are. She is so good at adapting herself to the best parts of a culture and learning the unspoken rules, while not compromising herself or anyone else in the process.
And finally, I am still, after 20+ years, learning what grace means, as it would be easier for me to just follow a list of guidelines. But if I just follow a list of rules, that makes my religion just like every other religion in the world, where it’s all about good deeds outweighing the bad. I’ve learned that following Jesus means surrendering everything, including my desire for following rules, and all of my sin, and letting him change me and make me more like him and less like a legalist. He constantly reminds me, from Isaiah 64, that all my righteousness is like filthy rags, worthless and needing to be burned. Then he faithfully reminds me that when He was on the cross and said “It is finished” (John 19), he meant that my sin and my list of rules had been wiped away, and that I was invited to be a part of the family of God with no list of pre-requisites for entry (other than trusting Him as my Savior). What a gift! He offers you the same thing…whether you are a rule follower or a maverick, or somewhere in the middle. I challenge you to check it out his invitation. It’s worth it.
I’ve rambled on, and not actually shared what I sat down to share, but this post is long enough, so stay tuned till tomorrow for part 2 of strengths and weaknesses.