It was a very bright morning and the air was fresh and clean. Bruce was having a quiet breakfast in the garden when Ian walked in.
“Dad, I’ve had it. I’m done.” announced Ian as he flopped into the chair beside his father. “If I can’t play by the rules, I might as well not play the game.”
Bruce hesitated, not sure of what to say. He couldn’t make the head or tail of what his son was saying.
“Wh-what are you talking about son?”
“It’s this religious stuff. I thought you said it would be easy.” Ian’s voice was laden with so much frustration, desperation and exhaustion all at the same time. He continued, “I thought all I had to do was to follow the rules and I’d be fine with God. I was so wrong. I don’t think I can ever obey them all.”
Bruce smiled. Life had dealt a fatal blow on Ian about three months ago. His wife of six years died leaving behind a gorgeous angel, their four year old daughter, Sue. It was at the lowest point in his life that he found some solace in God or “the religious stuff” as he called it. Bruce was so certain Ian really wanted to make this work. His desperation was almost palpable.
“You look like you’ve not had a good meal in weeks.” Bruce buttered two slices of toast. He put the toast, some omelette and sausage into a plate and pushed it to Ian. “Eat up.”
Ian stared at his father in disbelief. Here he was almost going bonkers and all his father could say was eat!
“How’s the team doing? You do such a fine job as coach, you know.” Bruce continued cheerfully.
Now, Ian was getting really ticked off at his dad. He shifted impatiently in his chair. He could feel his jaw tighten and his heart beat increasing by the minute. He clenched his fists to stop himself from any outbursts. “The team’s fine. Thanks.” he muttered.
“Ah, do you remember that soccer game I was made to referee?” asked Bruce.
Ian let out a tiny chuckle. How could he ever forget? It was a family joke.
It was a game of soccer. The normal referee was late and his dad was pressed into taking the role. He had no whistle and very little knowledge about the rules of the game. The game was the most chaotic Ian had ever played in.
“You see son, religion is somewhat like that game. When you don’t follow the rules of a game, you actually lose the freedom to enjoy the game.”
“You’re saying that I’m not enjoying religion because I’m not playing by the rules?” asked Ian.
“While christianity has rules for living, it’s not about the rules. They only help you realise that you have fallen short of God’s standards and this realisation leads you to God’s love and grace.”
Just then, they heard steps coming towards the garden. “D-a-d-d-y!” shrieked Sue. She ran to Ian at top speed, almost flying and jumped into his waiting arms. He twirled her round and round till they were both dizzy.
When they had quietened down a bit, Bruce said, “Son, God is your father and not just some big guy up in heaven you can impress by obeying some laws. He wants to rejoice over you as you just did to your daughter. All you need to do to get the peace and joy you seek is play by the rules of relationship - love, trust and faith.”
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