Your Bag of Rocks

My daughter and I have been reading the Betsy and Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace. They are books about two best friends, living in Mankato, Minnesota at the turn of the last century. Recently, in Betsy, Tacy and Tib, the three girls want to start a club like their big sisters’ club. They are each Catholic, Episcopalian, and Baptist, and the club they start is The Christian Kindness Club, or T.C.K.C. for short.
Tacy, who is the Catholic, said that lots of saints, even though they were very good, would also punish themselves if they were bad, like wearing a coat with itchy hair on the inside. The girls decide this should be a very important part of T.C.K.C, and since they don’t have access to a hair coat, they decide to put their marble bags around their necks and under their dresses, and for every bad thing they do, they will put a rock in the bag.
They set out to be kind, but then one of them spits and says, “Oh, I better put a rock in my bag,” and that inspires a hilarious scene of them doing naughty [but innocent] acts, so they can fill their bags rocks. Needless to say, they forget all about the “K” in the T.C.K.C.
I just love these books, and in the innocence of these girls, I see so much of myself. Tell me something I can’t do, and that is exactly what I want to do. Or as Paul writes in Romans 7, I do not understand my own actions….I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do…So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand.
There is an inner rebellious nature to all of us. And it has been there since the beginning—tell Adam and Eve they can’t eat off one tree, and that is exactly the fruit they want. How many of you have given up chocolate for Lent only to find you can’t stop eating it come Easter?
And yet we continue to set rules for ourselves, even if they don’t work all that well. I think that is because we also have inherent goodness in our created nature and even though we love what is bad, we also know that life is better when there are guidelines. God gave the Ten Commandments so that life would be good for us, not just to tell us what we can’t do.
As Lutherans, we believe that there is nothing we can do to be a better person in God’s eyes. God saves us out of pure grace—not because we followed any rules or punished ourselves for doing bad. This is what leads Paul to say that all things are lawful for me, but not all things are beneficial. And that seems to be such a key to remember when I am trying to be a better person.
First I can let it go. I will never be good enough. I will always love what is evil—that is how the devil works. He makes evil look good, taste good, feel good…. But I am also armed with faith and the love of Christ, and a desire for good, too. Jesus loves me so much that he keeps inviting me to follow him. Every single day, no matter how much I messed up in the past. And when I know this, doing good becomes not so much about things I have to do, but about things I GET to do.
Betsy, Tacy and Tib eventually tired of the heavy bags, stuffed with rocks they wore around their necks. And when they just let them go, they started to act more kindly.
That is the freedom we are offered, too. Let those bags go and live in the freedom you have been given.

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