You Gotta Know The Rules

The Lovely Lady took care of our grandchildren this evening.  Oh, I was there, but they know that Grandma is the fun one, the one who has plans for their entertainment.  The old man is good for a snuggle and a quick read through a book, but he couldn’t pull off an evening’s amusement if his life were in the balance.  I snoozed in my easy chair while they painted water pictures in the next room.

Later, I came to and realized that the voices were farther away, in the front living room.  I pried myself out of the recliner and headed up to see what their entertainment coordinator had cooked up for them now.  I was amused to see (and hear) the excitement of the kids as they played a game of “Cootie”, as many of you know, a game which has been around for over sixty years.  They were shouting out the numbers which were rolled with the die; the number determining which body part they received for the little bug they were assembling.  Legs, tongue, antennae, and eyes…all were pieces they anxiously desired as they awaited the proper number to be rolled when their turn came.

It was bedlam.  The younger ones gained and lost interest in a matter of seconds, depending on how near it was to their time to roll.  One of the girls tried to just set the die down on the number she wanted instead of rolling it.  Then the boys began to use their half-finished bugs to do battle.  Parts were dropping off, and heads were becoming disconnected from bodies.  It was obvious that the rules didn’t much matter in this arena.  They were making it up as they went and enjoying the results just fine, thank you.  The only problem was that the game would never be finished at this rate, so the activities director called a halt to the shenanigans and brought some semblance of order to the affair once more.  Putting the game pieces back to rights and settling down to the task of rolling the die, the game was soon finished, with one of the boys completing his bug first. You see, the Lovely Lady understands that you gotta know the rules.

I was amused at their lack of knowledge of the rules (and the dismal absence of concern at the same), but then I remembered one of life’s most embarrassing moments way back when.  I thought that I understood the game of baseball, being the veteran (at eight years old) of a good number of games in the neighborhood’s vacant lots.  I was convinced that I could play with the best of the boys at my summer camp, too.  On that hot June afternoon, I had waited in the blistering sun through several batters ahead of me, and now it was my turn to step up to the plate.  Swinging the bat to warm up, I stood, almost in the batter’s box (what was this rectangle drawn here for?) and after the first ball whizzed past as I swung the bat as hard as I could, turned to listen as the camp director suggested that I had to keep my feet in the box or I would be called out.  I was just digesting that little piece of information when the ball zoomed toward me once more.  I swung the bat–a little half-swing, since I was worried about stepping out over the line near the plate.  “Strike Two!” called the balding director behind the plate.  He was not only the coach for every boy out there, he was the umpire as well.  I was ready for the next one and swung with all my might…a foot ahead of the ball.  My motion was enough to rattle the catcher though, and he dropped the ball.  The coach/umpire/director, taking advantage of a teaching moment, called out two orders, “Run!” and, “Throw the ball to first base!”  Well, the ball was right beside my foot, so I picked it up and threw it directly to the boy covering first base, putting myself out when I should have been running.  The director couldn’t help but laugh, not in a mean way, but a number of the other boys also laughed; their merriment definitely not intended to be kind.  It was a hard lesson, but it taught me again that you gotta know the rules.

Knowing the rules doesn’t just apply in sports and board games, though.  I remember a day many years ago, when a little neighbor boy was visiting in our home.  We evidently had a few more things for our children to remember or, at least different things than he was used to, and he was fed up.  After I reminded him that, “We don’t do that at our house,” one time too many, he responded with his observation.  “You have a lot of rules here, don’t you?”  I chuckled and then enlightened him (I thought).  “Johnny, you’ll have rules to obey all your life.  Even after you’re a grown-up, there will be rules that you’ll have to follow.”  The little fellow looked at me, disbelieving, for about thirty seconds.  I could almost see the wheels going around inside his head as all the possible arguments for that statement were turned over and examined to see if they would fly.  The disappointment of learning this awful truth was plainly written on his face as he finally just turned on his heels and stalked out the front door without saying another word.  I could only conclude that the horror of a world with perpetual rules was too much for his young brain to take in.  I was a little sorry to have shocked him so, but more than a little amused at his reaction.

We hear so much today about free spirits, thinking outside the box, and changing paradigms, and we seem to have forgotten that the rules still apply.  Our society pays the price as we descend, seemingly, into a sort of anarchy.  There’s no reason to be discouraged though, because our Creator has instilled His rules into creation itself and the rules will be obeyed or the consequences paid. The rules, spoken or otherwise, enforce themselves upon us as we walk through this world.  I guess that line of thought may be a bit esoteric for this venue, and since I have no intention of getting into arguments about philosophy, I’ll aim a little bit closer to home for a moment or two.

Recognizing that most of my readers are followers of Christ, I want to suggest that we each have rules which we must follow in our faith.  One might argue that we are not under Law, but that doesn’t change the truth of who we are and Whom we follow.  At a minimum, we live under the law of love, meaning that we must love our God with everything we have in us, and we must love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  It seems too simple, doesn’t it?  The thing is that the rules that come from those simple two statements will take a lifetime, and more, to fulfill.  Even under Grace, the rules are laid out for us to “play by”.  Winning depends on it.

With the children earlier today, when no rules are followed, confusion and bedlam was the result.  When I didn’t understand the rules of baseball many years ago, I was disqualified by my own actions.  Truly, we have rules to follow all of our lives.  It is up to us to study and understand which rules apply to the course which has been laid out for us.  Do you have the Rulebook close at hand?  It would be a good idea if we put it into use.

Otherwise, we might find ourselves picking up the very baseball we should have been outrunning to the base.

You gotta know the rules!

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
(Galatians 6:2~NIV)

“Friends are helpful, not only because they will listen to us, but because they will laugh at us; through them we learn a little objectivity, a little modesty, a little courtesy; We learn the rules of life and become better players of the game.”
(Will Durant~American writer/historian/philosopher~1885-1981)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.

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