So, how often do you read the instructions? Do you follow instructions? Following instructions is really all about being able to determine if they are really necessary, or if you can… improvise.
One of the running jokes in our household begins after I have prepared a meal from a recipe for the first time. I’ll sit down and say, “I followed the recipe.” And John will reply, “But…” And yes, I will have to say, “But I changed a few things.”
I take liberties with the phrase: To Taste.
To taste. I immediately make it my own, and leave the source material. I’ll go back, make notes, and know what I want to do next time. The notes actually are more for John, if he ever decides to cook whatever it was. Because he has to follow the recipe.
I learned to cook from my mother, who frequently makes things up. And I learned to improvise when I had limited resources in the developing world. I can make just about anything, and only a few things make me hesitate.
But what about the rest of the world. What about when I leave the kitchen? There are jokes about following the instructions on a VCR, but we don’t have VCRs anymore. And if you get something from apple, you literally get a card of paper on how to plug it in and what the buttons are, and then a link to all the help material online.
Use it, figure it out, the instructions are really only guidelines anyway.
So, what about things that don’t come in boxes? Do we have instructions for them?
Often, the Bible is referred to as Life’s Instruction Book. For those of us raised on improvisation, and never trusting the instruction manual, that phrase really doesn’t do us much good. The phrase mind you. If we wanted a set of rules, of directions on where to go and what to do next, we could just as well go to the I ching (sic).
But the Word of God is worth more than an instruction manual. The Word: it’s about the story. It’s about the love of God and the story of that love poured out, continually, over and over and over again.
It’s a thriller, a romance, a mystery, a foundation epic, a war report, a collection of missives to communities of faith, and a love letter. The Word of God found in scripture is so much more than an instruction manual. It is the beginning of the sharing of the story of the grace that continues to be poured out on the world.
See, the story doesn’t end with the last page.
The last page is an invitation to begin telling the story your own way.
Instead of instructions, we receive an invitation. And that invitation is not to a set of rigid rules, but a life filled with grace and love and community. What a gift. What a blessing.
We are invited into a life of improvising into God’s Love, remaining faithful to the Source, to the Word, but able to share the love in our own personal and authentic way. That’s a story worth following.