Leviticus has a lot of rules. A lot. That overwhelms me a bit. Well, that and the fact that I have to follow one of the all-time best discussions about living a literal Biblical life: Dr. Elnes’ blog post, and the conversation from Darkwood Brew on Sunday night. Quite frankly, I simply can’t say it any better. I’m a fan when I’m supposed to be part of the band.
I became a mom because I like to make rules. As I went over the list in Dr. Elnes’ post, I thought, “Well, if you’re going to be a rule maker you can’t overwhelm them with too much.” It’s the number one rule for making rules. Number two would be the consequence, which Leviticus definitely does that.
Number three is the eventual explanation of why or the purpose of the rule.
There’s a lot of rules in this house:
Rinse your dishes.
Speak kindly to others, particularly each other.
Say please and thank you.
Flush the toilet.
(After further review, I don’t know why these aren’t found in Leviticus…except for the toilet flusher reminder…I get that one.)
What we try to do at our house is explain why the rule is in order, and make sure in our explanation that “Because I said so” is never a good reason to impose a rule.
What we find as the kids continue to grow and need more, make bigger messes – is that the rules change by necessity, age, maturity, and my mood. Sometimes the rules apply. Sometimes, extenuating circumstances change things. Lucy has a broken arm from a double-decker sledding incident. So she can’t wash dishes now without getting her cast wet. I panicked just for a second when I realized she can’t wash the dishes. I was enjoying the no cleaning of the kitchen luxury at this point in my career in motherhood. When it occurred to me, I am the rule maker, after all. So I brilliantly flip-flopped their responsibilities: Max loads the dishwasher. Lucy empties it.
Strangely, when we changed the rule of the dishes, our family seemed to be flexible enough to understand the adjustment and willing to do so.
It’s important to understand, as a rule maker, when the rules aren’t working. One of the rules in our house is that the kids do their laundry. Before you call out the child labor protection agency on me, you should know that the laundry rule was a desperate attempt to rid my children of their 5 outfits a day gig they had going. So, I taught them how to do laundry, and then made myself a martini and napped on the couch. Soon the lesson was learned, the 5 outfits a day dwindled to 2 or 3, and all was right with the world. Until school started and they’re simply not here to do the laundry all day, like they were in the summer when I started the laundry rule. So, I’m back to no naps and doing all the laundry. But it’s more manageable because they’re not wearing as many clothes in a day because they appreciate the efforts that go into laundry.
Our house is full of adjustments of old rules and instilling new rules. I’ve tried to cover all potential situations, but sometimes, things happen or change. My family, as it seems, evolves.
And that’s how I see it with the rules in the Bible. Our society has evolved so much that some of these rules just don’t even apply. Some will always apply. It’s not always the rule that’s so important as much as it’s intent. Which, when you look at it that way, “Because I said so” should never be a valid response. Just like “Because the Bible says so” shouldn’t be a valid argument.
Another way that rules evolve is when new demands conflict with the old. “Flush the toilet” runs up against “save water” and may come out as the compromise, “if it is yellow, let it mellow.” Evolution of the law is an essential element. Consider the current debate over the Second Amendment that was written at a time when musket bearing rebels fought a similarly armed empire. I am reminded of the line from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. favorite hymn, “Once to Every Man and Nation” “New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth”