Monday, March 21, 2011

Freedom and Familiarity

Since we live in the country and have a yard the size of a park, that I can see from the living room window, the door and the kitchen window, we gave Samantha the freedom of being able to play outside without us...provided that she stayed between our house and Charles and Ginger's house and did not go into the woods at all. For a long time...several months, she followed that rule exactly. The she got familiar with her freedom and the environment and she started pushing the limits. In late January, she went to the edge of the woods at the far end of the field near our house. She was nowhere close to where she was supposed to be...and I wonder what would have happened if I had not come out to check on her exactly when I did. Would she have gone into the woods alone? Would she have gotten lost? She was grounded for a week from being allowed to be outside alone. Then with the cold weather and other things going on, it was actually two weeks before I gave her the chance to follow the rules again.

She and I were playing on the trampoline on a Sunday afternoon and as we played, we talked about her needing to follow the rules and to stay safe while she is outside. She said all the right things. She told me where she is allowed to play when she is by herself. She told me that she is not allowed to go into the trees. She said that she has to stay in front of our house, and that she must be where I can see her. So while I went inside to get ready for us to leave for our small group, I let her stay on the porch and play.

I came back out 5 minutes later and could not see her. I called her and she did not answer. I called louder. Still no answer. I yelled as loud as I could...and heard only silence. I walked to the end of the shop and looked at the field that she went to last time. I did not see her and I yelled her name. Nothing.

I began to get worried. I went back into the house and looked to see if she had come in while my back was turned. She was not there. I went back outside and felt myself starting to panic. I started to run to look for her and as I got around the back of our house, I saw her. Running along the back of the house, on the edge of a fairly steep slope that goes down into the woods.

I called her name, all three names, actually, and she turned around and immediately said "I'm sorry for hiding from you, Mommy," as she started walking toward me. I scooped her up and started scolding her. I told her that it is dangerous for her to be where I can't see her and that it is dangerous for her to go into the woods by herself because she could get lost and we wouldn't be able to find her.

By this time, we had reached the front of the house and Brent had come outside, too. I gave Samantha to him and told him that I couldn't deal with it right now. I took Jacob from him and went inside to finish getting ready to go. As soon as the door closed, I burst into sobbing. That's me, calm during a crisis, but as soon as it is over, I lose it.

Brent stayed outside with Samantha and talked to her for a long time about the dangers of going into the woods alone and of not staying in front of the house when she is alone. It did make a difference to her, because she had a nightmare that night about a snake biting her, but we learned later that it still wasn't enough to change her behavior.

She was grounded from being allowed to be outside by herself at all...until further notice. We told her that she will have to show that she can be trusted to follow directions.

So at the end of February, I decided to allow her a little freedom again, and to see if she would stay within the limits that were set. We were at Mom and Dad's office starting to work on the plans for our new house, and I let Samantha play outside alone. I got her tricycle out, told her that she had to stay on the road, and showed her the limits of where she could go on the road. Then I went back inside and watched her out the window.

Within 5 minutes, she went past her boundaries. I went outside and called her to come inside, and she ran away. Yes, she got in big trouble for that one. And she had to come back inside because she didn't follow the guideline we had set. She has not been allowed outside alone since then. Which really makes her unhappy, because she can no longer go outside while Jacob is taking a nap since I need to be inside to listen for him. She asks to go out and I tell her no, with a reminder that because she didn't follow the rules, I can't trust her to be outside alone right now. I tell her that she must show me that she can be trusted if she wants to earn this privilege back.

I have a hard time figuring out how to understand this behavior , how to handle to train the defiance out of her. You see I am a rule follower. Even when I think the rule is ridiculous, even when I grumble about the rule, I follow it. Because it is, in fact, a rule and it completely goes against my nature to not follow a rule. Not because I am any "better" than anyone else, but because that is just how I am made. (I read once that about 25% of people are rule followers, the remaining 75% are those who push against the rules, so odds are, I will also be fighting this battle with Jacob in a few months to years.)

I thought some more and realized that she became familiar with the freedom she was given and lost respect for the boundaries that came with the freedom. She began to act as if her freedom was absolute.

As I think more about it, though, I realize that this is not only a problem for my child. Even with my rule following personality, I rebel against rules in my heart quite frequently...I just follow them outwardly. And really, is that much better?

I wonder if it always happens, that once a person is given freedoms, that person becomes familiar with those freedoms and then loses respect for them? We as a society have definitely done that our freedoms. For example, we have the privilege of voting for who will govern us, yet we willingly give away that freedom when we don't educate ourselves as to the candidates, and we don't even go to vote at all. We do not follow through with the responsibility that comes with the freedom.

As a Church we have freedom in Christ. But what do we do with it? We go to a congregation of other people who believe just like us. We socialize with people who believe just like us. We judge people who don't believe just like us. We don't get to know people who don't believe just like us because they will "probably be a negative influence." And we certainly don't form relationships with people who don't even believe in God, or who are angry with God, because those relationships might be "harmful" to us in our spiritual journey.

We usually neglect the responsibility we have to spread the good news of our freedom in Christ. We have become complacent in who and where we are and neglect the responsibility to grow, and love and share.

Those people who don't believe like us may have something to teach us. Those people who are angry with God may need to be shown his love. Those people who don't believe in him need to meet him, and they will only do that when they are shown who he is through being a part of the lives of believers. Not with expectations attached, but simply by being loved by Jesus followers just as Jesus would have loved them. And by seeing Jesus in action in our lives. We need to put ourselves in places where we can be used by God.

That is the responsibility that we are given along with the freedom of knowing that we will be with Jesus forever. When push comes to shove, are those of us who have had it easy going to throw away our freedom because we fail to follow through with our responsibility? Or will we suddenly rise to the occasion and find obedience and more freedom?

"Live as free men, but do not use your freedome as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king." 1 Peter 2:16-17

"But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it - he will be blessed in what he does." James 1:25

"Speak and act as those hwo are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgement!" James 2:12-13