Humans have a habit of imposing order and maintaining control with long lists of rules and unnecessarily restrictive taboos. In the process, we mature, obedient, compliant people can miss out on the wildly extravagant God of creation who longs to break every chain and open us to the unmitigated joy of life.
For instance, I recently read an article about how a man should hug another man. It was accompanied by pictures of President Obama giving a "proper man-hug" and a "too-close-for-comfort man-hug". I was utterly dismayed. Even in expressing genuine affection, we are supposed to abide by someone’s invented rules for appropriate hugging techniques? Jesus would have a field day on that one!
I am usually very conscious of abiding by the rules. I am aware that most rules have an invaluable function and were not simply "made to be broken." Yet what if I decided to loosen up on "proper behavior" in my everyday life in order to partake more fully in the love and joy of God’s created world?
Maybe once in a while I should:
… sing as I walk down the street.
…spend 20 whole minutes "wasting time", perhaps watching the ants, or silently observing the entire sun sink behind the horizon.
…refuse to say a critical word about any other person for at least one day.
…jump up and down when I pray, wave my hands, and praise God at the top of my voice.
… eat my dessert first, and consciously enjoy every bite.
…get some finger paints and large pieces of paper, put on some old clothes, and play with the colors, smearing them around any way I want without critiquing whether it is "good art".
…buy a bag of chocolates and just give them out to whomever I happen to encounter.
…go outside without an umbrella when it rains and raise my face to the sky, feeling the water wash over me. If it rains hard enough to create puddles, stomp in them with abandon and giggle as the water flies everywhere.
…reach out to the kid with his pants hanging off his rear and try to learn something from him.
…allow myself to sob loudly when I am sad, to wail and moan and throw temper tantrums for as long as I can sustain the energy to do so.
…take a good look at my naked body and thank God for how each part functions and serves me.
…play with a frog.
…laugh long and loud, and smile so wide my cheeks hurt.
…notice cashiers’ name tags, call them by name, and thank them for serving me today.
…put on some music and dance, without judging whether or not I "can" dance.
…never go a day, even in the most miserable weather, without going outside for at least a moment, smelling the air, noticing the sky and trees, and shouting out my gratitude to God.
I’m sure you could add other things to this list. Let go of at least a few reservations and fears and find ways to experience the sheer joy of living, even in the midst of trials and pain. See the crazy, wondrous, wild abandon God instilled in creation and allow it to fill and inspire your spirit. Lavishly spread compassion, love, and delight. I suspect if we can do that well, God will look down and see that it is good.
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.amyflorian.com/.