Release from the Everyday “l” law!

By Scott Keith

This winter has been a whirlwind of teaching gigs for me, most of which being centered around the subject matter of my book, Being Dad – Father as a Picture of God’s Grace. Therein, I argue that being a dad means being a mouthpiece of grace and an obscure voice of empathy to his children. In part, this means that dads are called to provide a little magic. The unexpected yes. The hoped for but seldom granted release from the doldrums of day-to-day life. The “I forgive you” when “I condemn you” is what is expected and warranted.

You see, I think that the everyday things dads do, the “Yes” when everyone else says “No, it’s too dangerous,” the “Go for it. I believe in you,” create magical moments that remind children that magic just might be possible. After all, we want our children to believe that the seemingly impossible is sometimes possible. Our redemption is impossible unless it is because of Christ. God’s fatherly love for us seems impossible. Yet, He does the impossible by giving His own Son so that we might receive adoption as His children. Children need magical moments. I think that we greatly underestimate the apologetic character of the seemingly ordinary things good dads do every day, which are magic to his children. These are a glimpse of the ineffable truth that we are loved on account of Christ.

Part of what I’m attempting to get at is that the seldom thought of reality that children’s lives are ruled by the law. Maybe not the capital “L” law but the oh so many lower case “l” laws put on us within communities. When to go to bed, wake up, eat, play, with whom to play, go to school, go outside while at school, watch TV, or do homework is all decided for them. These little “l” laws overwhelm the everyday existence of children. I have argued that even the most coddled children have less freedom from little “l” laws than we realize. Thus, they all need the occasional release, if only to show them that release is possible.

In the late 1800s, those who suffered from tuberculosis and other debilitating pulmonary diseases were often sent to live in the dry climates. Many times, they were even told that they should live at some altitude in the mountains. These people were called Lungers (a la Doc Holiday in Tombstone). By all accounts, a good number of individuals who sought the freedom of the Old West and of the hills were Lungers. Being in the process of recovering from a severe bout of pneumonia myself, I think I might be a Lunger. And I need the fresh air and the release that the mountains provide not only my lungs but my soul as well.

Again, I was recently discussing these things with my good friend Dave Rufner. He asked me: “I wonder if some of the fresh air that us “Lungers” experience in the wilderness is a type of freedom from the law. Not the capital “L” law (a la David Zahl) but the oh so many lower case ‘l’ laws put on us within communities. It’s some of that freedom that we also experience at camp.” Maybe that’s why the Ed Abbey said in Desert Solitaire: “We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope…”

This conversation got me thinking. How often do we consider the extent to which our lives are dictated by these, at times, self-inflicted little “l” laws? Are we even conscious of the myriad of ways that these requirements, fulfillments, responsibilities, and burdens weigh us down? We all know we need a release. I think we feel the pain of the community inflicted little laws every day. Some of us seek freedom in the mountains or the wild. Some of seek release at the bottom of a bottle. Some of us seek release and comfort in the arms of a loved, or not so loved, one.

No matter where we seek that release, I think we all need it. Yet, we will ultimately not find real release in these places. The bottle, the wild places where little “l” laws are relaxed, and the arms of another sinner will all leave us merely wanting more. Wanting more booze, more time alone in the wild, more love, or just more sex.

These little “l” laws which weigh us down, as well as our children, are merely the outward civil movements of the Law, which in showing us what God requires of us, too shows us that we have not met His righteous requirements. Thus, we feel the burden of that Law, of our sin, and we utterly despair. We need a release. We need to be set free, and none of our efforts will accomplish our freedom.

So, if Ed Abbey is right, from whence does this escape, this freedom, this hope come? It only comes to us because of Christ alone. Remember: “For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) And also: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3)

So then, you are free to enjoy God’s good gifts of libations without the need to seek release in and over indulgence. You are free to seek peace in the wild places, knowing that Christ has already won your release from that which weighs you down. You are free to enjoy the love and companionship of your spouse without the need to use him or her to find meaning.

For, if Christ has set you free, and He has, you are free indeed!