Specks of light danced through the tree branches and illuminated the wildflowers of the forest floor of Rocky Mountain National Park. I paused over their simple beauty, and I longed to pluck one or two to bring along. Yet, the warning of the park ranger restrained my hand. Wildlife in National Parks is protected by law. Even flowers may not be touched by human hands.
A rule-follower by nature, I have never had trouble respecting the law and obeying it. In high school, I was very strict with myself when it came to underage drinking and often felt superior to those who smoked. Following the law became a point of pride for me.
This extended from civil law to the moral law and the precepts of the Church. I saw myself as different and separate from my peers as I strove to live an outwardly Christian life. To this day, I painfully relate to the Pharisees in their careful rule-following.
The state of my heart was very far from the words of the Psalmist today, “Blessed the man who . . . delights in the law of the Lord” (Psalm 1:3).
I took no delight in following rules. My choices were done in fear of not being perfect, not appearing perfect, and the worst, of getting caught breaking the law. There was no love in my heart, only pride.
I did not remember that everything the Lord teaches us is for our good, to lead us on the way we should go. He wants us to hearken to and delight in His commandments so that we can prosper in His grace. (See Isaiah 48:17-19.) When we delight in His law, it makes us free.
I am slowly learning to overcome my pride in rule-following—to let loose when needed and to have an understanding heart. Rigidity about the law makes a heart unmerciful. I am discovering that I need to show myself, as well as others, mercy.
Dear Lord, teach me to delight in Your law so that I may know Your merciful heart.
Susanna Spencer is the Theological Editor for Blessed is She who studied theology and philosophy in her earlier life. She happily cares for her three adorable little girls, toddler boy, and her dear husband in Saint Paul when not writing and editing. She loves beautiful liturgies, cooking delicious meals, baking amazing sweets, reading good books, raising her children, casually following baseball, and talking to her philosopher husband. She is a contributing author to our children's devotional prayer book called Rise Up and Theological Editor of the Catechism Studies, the Mystery Studies, and the Works of Mercy study. You can find out more about her here.