Where are the Instructions?

by Arietty

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In the last months of my marriage I was gradually coming out of the fear laden fog that had been my life in fundamentalism. Now that I had internet access I would find myself reading more and more things written from a non-Christian perspective. I had joined a few forums based around interests I had but spent more and more time reading the off-topic threads. I was often blown away by how much grace some of these people showed in flame wars or contentious discussions, how much humility they had towards their own beliefs. Wasn’t grace “our” word? It was at first disturbing to learn so much from people who did not follow Christ but after a time I grew used to it and found myself more and more willing to look for wisdom and kindness in places other than my own backyard.

There were several people on the forum who called themselves Taoists. After I got over being fearful of this word I got interested in their discussions about a book called the Tao Te Ching. There was one translation and commentary in particular that they got a lot out of and I was intrigued because it was so utterly different than anything I was used to. One day my husband announced that we were all going camping with a bunch of other homeschoolers at someone’s country property (another great building-my-own-house for 10 years family). Well I knew what that would entail, me setting up all the tents, cooking all the food, washing all the dishes and all the while looking out for 6 children while my husband stood around with the men and talked about how wonderful he was. Maybe I would even get to hear his testimony again as he dragged this increasingly bloated tale out every time he was around anyone new. I was at this point so deeply burned out that I could not imagine going through a whole three days of this and I point blank refused to go. My husband was forced to go on his own with 5 of the children (I am sure all their needs were met by other moms there as happened any time he went somewhere solo with them). I and the baby had THREE WHOLE DAYS at home in peace.

On the first day, when my husband would be driving and unable to call me I took the baby into the city and went to a, *gasp*, Esoteric book store. I was very very nervous. The whole store smelled of incense and there was newage music playing that the fundamentalist tape in my brain reminded me was demonic. It was very peaceful and there were all kinds of people of all ages sitting around quietly reading on cushioned benches. I found the book that I had read about, bought it (with cash of course) and left. As soon as I was out of there I threw out the bag that had the store name on it and stuffed the book into my diaper bag.

Once home I started reading. There was the poetry type stuff which was the actual Tao Te Ching and then there was the commentary. I could not for the life of me understand any of it. People had been reading this thing since before Christ but it was just a mystery to me. Here were the poems.. very charming if vague observational pieces. Here was the commentary elaborating on what the poems might be saying. But.. but.. WHERE were the instructions?? How did my forum friends become Taoists without a book of instructions to follow? Gradually an understanding came to me that life and beauty was not necessarily governed by rules that could carefully followed to insure the approval of God. That maybe viewing every choice in every moment of the day as the following of instructions was stultifying in the extreme. That maybe there was another way to have a relationship with God that was not all about the ticking of boxes.

I have not traveled very far down the road of a way to have a relationship with God that is not based on ticking boxes. Really I’ve only pottered about with the idea. Because I’m no longer driven by fear to pursue spiritual interests I am able to just let it languish, let the ideas come to me now and again. It is totally different from my frenzied pursuit of righteousness while a fundamentalist. Maybe in another ten years I will have something wise to say about it.. or maybe not.

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