The dragons and their riders in their weyrs, and the people in the cave holdings, went about their separate tasks and each developed habits that became custom, which solidified into tradition as incontrovertible as law.
~Anne McCaffrey – Prologue to her Pern books
I’ve always enjoyed asking the question “Why?” Just ask my parents. It was a favourite question as I was growing up, especially when I was asked to do something and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out the reasoning behind it. Of course, and most probably due to exasperation with me, the inevitable answer would come… “Because I said so!” That was always a cue to stop the questioning and just get on with it.
But still, it’s a favourite question. I like to understand the whys and wherefores behind what I do. I dislike wasting time doing something that I know is pointless, or later discover to have been so. It bugs me. Worse still is doing something just because “we’ve always done it this way”. Oh that bugs me. Basically all that means is that it once had meaning to someone in the dim past, and that’s where the meaning stayed, in the dim forgotten past, yet the act continues because it’s become a tradition. New meaning can of course be found in the tradition, and it’s often possible to reconnect with the initial meaning, but, unfortunately, I’m one of those people that find it very difficult to relate to inherited tradition. I can appreciate it for the sake of others enjoying it, but I rarely get to experience the level of meaning they do.
I’ve been making my way through Anne McCaffrey’s Pern Series again, and the sentence I’ve quoted from her prologue stood out as an excellent explanation as to what often happens in most cultures. Whether it be within families, government, religion or most other groups that gather and meet over a number of years.
- Incontrovertible Law
In recent years, I’ve been asking lots of questions about why the church does things the way it does. Questions such as the infamous and somewhat annoying, but ever so relevant, Why? and others akin to:
- Are we doing this because it’s a command, or are we doing it because it’s a custom?
- If it’s a custom, does it still have meaning for me today, or have I just adopted it because “it’s what we’ve always done?”
- If I stop doing it, is their a negative affect on my relationship with God, or does that free me to know Him in a more relational way?
- Do I impose this on others?
- Is it formulaic? Do I believe that if I do ‘A’ then God will do ‘B’?
- Does it facilitate relationship with my loving Father, or does it foster the notion of an angry God wanting me to perform for Him?
Oh so many questions. It’s been a fun couple of years debunking a lot of myths about what God expects of me as his child. It’s also been a wonderful time of pursuing relationship with the One and only God who wants to be my friend and desires to do life with my 24/7, the One I can’t impress with all my doings and goings because he knows what’s in my heart and that’s what he wants. I’ve also realised that I now don’t find a great deal of meaning behind a lot of the things that I’ve done for years in a corporate worship environment. I wonder now if a lot of that wasn’t just inherited meaning and I’d never really connected with it on the personal “I get this” level.
In all this, I’ve learnt that I can’t adopt other people’s traditions, it’s just not in me to do that. I ask too many questions. The best way for me to worship my Creator is to take a step back from the formalities of our religion, and be with him in every moment of every day.
And honestly, life with Him, has never been this good.