Where are we coming from? With a title like Let’s Break the Rules, is it possible we have a hidden agenda? We could be lawless rebels, or cynics, or even heretics. At a time when our daily newsfeed is chock full of rules, these are fair questions. No, we are not any of these, nor are we representing any particular denomination.
It is, however, worth noting what some of our presuppositions are. Everything we say, every project we engage in flows out of a set of assumptions, many of which are tacit. A tacit assumption is what we assume that almost never crosses our minds. We want to be up front with you.
What is Truth?
We believe all truth belongs to the Creator God. Some of his truth is found in his Word which we call the Holy Bible. Truth found outside of Scripture is just as much God’s truth as what is found on the written pages of Scripture. There is no contradiction between these two venues of truth. In our book we may share truths not directly stated in Scripture with just as much confidence as if they were expressly written in Scripture, since all truth originates with God.
This belief prompts us to freely reference numerous biblical passages and principles throughout this book. We have done this intentionally as we discover a more God-centric view of our world.
Who Am I?
Since all human beings are created in God’s image, we believe we each have certain things in common with everyone else in the world. Each and every person has intrinsic value and deserves to be respected and treated with honor and dignity. We also believe each of us is different from everyone else in the world. God gives each of us a unique set of gifts (such as our personality, spiritual gifts, and team roles) and a unique set of life experiences (such as our childhoods, university years, marriage, and adult years). These give each of us diverse filters for a variety of issues.
Therefore, we freely share our life experience as it relates to breaking dysfunctional rules so readers can find freedom to have healthy relationships in their marriage, families, churches, and any setting in life.
What are Problems?
We believe certain things about problems. None of us has the privilege of escaping the heartache of living in a fallen world. Life is full of situations that are unwelcome or harmful, that bring us discomfort or even pain. For some, there is life-wrenching tragedy to be endured, to be survived. It can be deeply tempting to give into the pain with a hopeless cynicism or settle for a life of soul numbness.
We hate any and all suffering. At the first sign of a headache, how many of us go grab a pain reliever? At the first suggestion of stress with a friend we want to patch things up. We often say or think, “Just grin and bear it,” or, “What does not kill me makes me stronger,” or, “What will be, will be.”
It is very easy to assume our biggest problem is what causes us the pain, the struggle, the challenge. In reality, the real problem is less obvious. Often the real problem is our commitment to not changing, not growing. We must, therefore, look for the core issue and become willing to change.
Regardless of the depth of hurt and pain we are experiencing, what if the core problem turned out to be our stubborn determination to keep our dysfunctional patterns set in cement? Like a broken leg that is not properly set, it refuses to mend and heal properly. We have learned to adapt to the limp, but, in truth, we really do not have to live this way. We can change. But how?
What Are Solutions?
Stress and suffering can move us toward God or away from God. These are the only two solutions. When it moves us away from God, it cannot help but move us away from being fully human and alive. When we close ourselves to pain, we close ourselves to joy.
We can focus on the problem in order to resolve it and stop the pain. This may help for a while. Or we can try to understand the problem and our reaction to it. We can try to learn something about God, ourselves and others from the painful situation so we can be a better person.
The prophet Isaiah described Jesus as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Yet not once did Jesus ever interpret reality with cynicism, passive acceptance, or angry strength. The path to the cross was littered with temptations to avoid the pain, yet our Lord learned obedience through his suffering. His choice to embrace the future to the point of death resulted in the healing of our greatest wound: separation from God. As his followers, he invites us to find healing from our wounds by moving toward God.
How Do People Change?
This deeper healing is exactly everybody’s biggest challenge. We all need healing. But real change may not be what we think it is, even with the so-called religious solutions. It is certainly more than spending more time and energy in church, reading Scripture more, or being nicer. It makes perfect sense to stay detached from the problems for which we have no answers. It is just easier to proclaim that people need less therapy and more obedience than to involve ourselves in the slower process of healing. Change and relief are two entirely different realities. Or we may ask why are we concerning ourselves with the label “schizoid” when it could be just an issue of sin from which we need to repent?
Nowhere in Scripture are we encouraged to pretend. We do not have to pretend we have it all together when we do not. We do not have to pretend we have reached spiritual maturity when we have not. We do not have to pretend our closest relationship satisfies deeply when it does not. Personal wholeness begins with a willingness to look in the mirror and being real about what you see. An honest look at the rules we were raised with and are probably still living out is a very good place to start. A soul that aches is not necessarily evidence of psychosis or spiritual immaturity. It is what real feels like.
Let’s Break the Rules compels the reader to start with real. Indeed, it will be in the middle of our stress or our pit of despair that we will most likely find God. Healing and wholeness is not the elimination of our past; it is the use of our past to draw us into deeper relationship with God, his purposes for our lives, and others.1 And real change can happen if we are willing to begin from the inside out.2
What is Our Theological Perspective?
Both of us count ourselves as solidly evangelical in theological persuasion. This means we believe in the authority of the Bible as God’s revelation to humanity as well as the essence of the gospel (or good news) consisting of salvation by grace alone, solely through faith in Jesus’s atonement. Both of us today, however, believe things about God, people, problems and solutions that we did not believe at age fifteen. We have matured in our understanding of God and his ways.
This book is the description of moving away from unwritten rules that are not in Scripture, even though they may be a part of our upbringing and church experience. The Bible actually teaches the opposite of these dysfunctional rules that entangle us, which is why we reference Bible stories to illustrate a different way of living. Part of the growing and maturation God brings to us is a journey to healing and wholeness. Each of us has a unique journey, because we are unique persons, and yet there are patterns to our brokenness that are similar to all. You may see yourself in some of the rules exposed in this book. It is our prayer that you will find release from them and enter more fully into the joy of freedom in Christ.
These presuppositions are our starting point for Let’s Break the Rules.
Dan Woodard, Dan Reinhardt
1Adapted from Dan Allender’s The Healing Path, p. 6.
2Adapted from the cover of Larry Crabb’s Inside Out.