Oh, yeah! I just said, "Be the person that breaks the rules!" When you say that statement my heart flutters with excitement, but for most in the church world, "breaking the rules" is deplorable. "Well I never!” “I never break the rules" might move through your head.
In a subculture that seems its entire intent is behavior modification and to not break any rules, this statement might shake the very foundations of who you thought a Christian was or who they are supposed to be.
Many rules are man-made, and sometimes social norms need to be challenged. Social norms that seem to allow love and expectance but they are vapid and pointless. Norms such as clothing, music, personality, and cultural preferences. Children from hard places come from many walks of life, experiences, cultures and challenges. We need to be flexible with what is the norm or comfortable with us and serve them with open hearts.
I propose that all the rules that seem to keep you safe only hinder you from fulfilling the full calling of God. Rules that are risk-adverse and almost seem to guarantee safety. When no one is ultimately safe from trials and life can turn on a dime and suddenly your “safe reality” is shuddered. Your only safe place is in the risk-taking arms of Christ. He lived His life at risk, and you should be anti-risk adverse.
Many rules that seem to be right in man's eyes were never God's intent for us. We build our rules and worlds in our own eyes. Hoping “our world” will be a better version than what is written in the Bible. But in reality those rules are grounded in selfishness and pride.
I want you to think about the rules were totally broken for children from hard places because of fallen man, and sometimes, we MUST break the rules to support and love children from hard places.
I am not talking about the ethical and moral laws that God has written in our hearts. Rules that were written by servants of God in the Bible. Those rules are birthed in love and relationship with God the Father, and those any loving child would desire to live out to serve their father.
I am talking about the authoritarian, behavior-modification rules that change no one. The ones that might have even worked for a while but need to change due to the child or the situation.
Then what rules should we break?
Rules that are overly complex and bureaucratic:
These are the rules that make it almost completely impossible for a child to thrive or a family to be successful. Rules so complex that a family and a child from a hard place is almost guaranteed failure.
We need to subtract (-) the O-L-I-C-Y from the word policy
add (+) the E-O-P-L-E
What have we always heard: "Rules keep us safe." Of course, they do, but I want you to think about the child that someone broke the rules for them and they were neglected, abused, abandoned and worse. Remember the child that was born with or diagnosed with a special need. NONE of the rules you use apply to them. They didn't get the handbook for "normal" or the choice to not fit in the box and not be a "rule-breaker."
I am asking you, if you see a child in distress or their family member distraught, please think outside of the box. Take a few minutes and rethink the rules or the policy. Today, is that rule so important or is the person more important? How can you as a leader, mentor, adult, or friend connect with them and encourage them and help them feel safe and successful.
As parents, are you putting unwritten cultural norms or rules that do not support a loving relationship?
As pastors and churches, do our policies that are meant to keep kids safe, prohibit growth and discipleship?
As community leaders, are we putting social norms and acceptance above a child's needs?
Are we holding strong to rules that outwardly seem successful but are unhelpful to children from hard places?
Do we have the same behavior standards and policies for children that have experienced trauma or that have a special need?
Or can we break the rules and give these children and families and extra steps to success and grace or maybe say, this rule works for one child and might not work for another, and think of out-of-the-box ways to help these children meet basic safety and behavior standards.
Are there so many steps such as forms to fill out, standards to meet, liabilities to avoid, hoops to jump through just to be a part of the team?
Or can we break the rules and limit the steps for a child to be successful in the group at large. Can we skip one step? Can we make another rule that allows the child to be a part of the unit successfully and allow the experience of walking in to your church a breath of fresh air? Instead of making them feel like they are the little monkey with symbols doing the song and dance to achieve passage through your church children’s ministry.
Rules that have been there forever but don't work for this century or situation:
This one is the rule that someone asks "Why is this the rule? " or "Why can't it change?", and the response is: "It's always been this way."
Jesus was a rule breaker. Through the power of the cross, He changed rules that had been around for hundreds of years. He tore the veil and broke the rule to regain relationship with His children.
Sometimes rules build walls instead of bridges and cause a defect instead of making an effect in people's lives.
Rules that encourage apathy, laziness or entitlement:
Many times, when helping children from hard places, it feels easier to set a rule on punishment in play to create needed behavior.
The hard or less-traveled path is to get to the root of the behavior or need and serve love and discipleship. It takes more time and effort to disciple a child to life, healing and the needed behavior than it does to create a robot that outwardly follows the rules but inwardly, there is no change.
It’s a rule that you as an adult might feel like you are entitled to, such as personal time or space. Not that you should not be allowed that but when it comes from a position of entitlement, it can be to the detriment of a child. A child might need love and discipleship and you’d choose your needs over the child. Instead, those personal desires need to be put down at times to love and encourage a child.
A rule that is a band aid fix:
Everyone knows what a Band-Aid fix is. It is something that covers the injury rather than heals and reveals.
Many times, children's behaviors are not what is revealed on the surface. It is possibly rooted in fear, trauma, and frustration. They do not know what the need is or how to fix it.
As a parent, friend, family member, community leader, or pastor, we need to look below the surface and ask God for wisdom on how to right the wrong, soothe the pain and to ultimately bring healing.
Rules that elevate cultural preferences or social norms over the Bible:
Social and cultural preferences vary in each family, church and community. It is easy to stay in the box, try to fit in the box, or stay with people that live in a box similar to yours.
As we move from culture to culture and house to house, our flesh is tested. Culture shock is not subjective; it is a true experience. It is hard. But the Bible calls us to go to every nation and all people.
In the world of special needs and orphaned and vulnerable children, (the "rule breakers”), their outward behaviors and needs can rub anyone the wrong way. You might stare at these children with disdain and say," Well, I never! Or “How can they act that way?" But their stories are not as simple as what is revealed at the surface, and we, as community leaders, pastors, volunteers, families and friends, need to think outside the box to serve a love child from hard places.
Instead of turning our heads away and stiff-arming the child and family, get down where they are and serve them with arms of love and understanding.
While we wait around for all the rules to set in play, and all the risk to go away, children are in distress and being mistreated. Their adoptive, foster or special needs family members are isolated and discouraged, wondering if anyone will ever understand.
Today, rethink the P-O-L-I-C-Y and consider if it connects you to the P-E-O-P-L-E, and if it doesn't, consider "BE THE PERSON that BREAKS THE RULES!"