There Are No Instructions

how to

I finally had the chance to watch The LEGO Movie the other day.  I adored it.  I won’t give anything away here (what I’m about to say is in the premise explained within the first few minutes of the movie), but the movie made me think about the way we’re constantly seeking instructions for how to live our lives.

In the movie, the main character lives in a perfectly ordered city, Bricksburg.  He and all of the other residents find out what to do every day by following instructions in an instruction manual.  The clip below gives you an idea of how this works… and how this structure leads the LEGO people to believe (or at least sing) that, “Everything is awesome!”

We don’t have anything like the LEGO instruction manuals for life, but sometimes we like to think we do.  Walk down the self-help aisle of the bookstore… or google a list of self-help titles.  Here’s a few I came across: Always Know What to Say; Achieve Anything in Just One Year; Upgrade Your Body and Mind; 7 Highly Effective Ways to Win Friends, Drive Your Purpose, and Lose Weight.  (Ok, I made that last one up).

There’s a reason these books sell so well.  We are desperate for security, and we want to come by that security by doing what is “best” or “correct.”  Please, please, someone tell us what to do and how to do it.  Then maybe we would feel better.

Some self-help books likely contain some helpful ideas and strategies.  But none of them are going to bring an all-encompassing solution to your struggles.  If there were one, then everyone would read it and use it, and there wouldn’t be a need for any other books to be written.

There’s another book that sells really well that people read as a step-by-step manual: the Bible.  So, this is where I say that the Bible is the one book that can give you the solution you’re looking for, the book that will tell you exactly what to do… right?

Sorry, no.  If the Bible served that purpose, then we’d all just follow its very clear instructions and everything would be, well, awesome.  I don’t think I have to tell you how much disagreement there is over what the Bible says, and beyond that, what it means.  When we think we know what it wants us (and everyone else) to do, not only are we trying to justify ourselves by our own actions, we start thinking we’re better than those who don’t follow it in the exact manner that we do.

Besides, the Bible wasn’t written as a set of instructions.  It’s a collection of different types of texts written to or for a specific group for specific reasons.  It doesn’t tell us step-by-step ways to go about every aspect of life.  Certainly, there are some laws to be obeyed (that we disagree over how to follow) and principles to be gleaned (and debated) from its records and stories and prophecies and letters and so on.  But every book in the Bible had an audience that wasn’t us and a purpose that wasn’t ours.

I realize I am writing about this in a somewhat confident manner.  Honestly, writing about this brings a familiar nauseous feeling to my throat.  It’s the feeling I get when I think about the Bible, and how long I wanted (and still want) to believe that it will magically tell me what to do in every situation.  As much as I am understanding and appreciating the Bible differently, it would still be much more comforting to stand sure not just about my faith, but about what I’m doing at any given moment.

But I guess God didn’t mean for the Bible to be clear instructions.  Sometimes, I get really angry with Him about it.  I get angry because I want what I was taught about the Bible’s life-solving qualities to be true (it would be a lot easier).  I get angry because He didn’t make it clear and He lets people twist it for their own harmful purposes.

Maybe He wanted to give us more freedom and creativity than we would have if He just told us exactly what to do.  I don’t know.  That’s actually my point: I don’t know.  None of us do.  It’s actually a relief to admit that.

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