For the whole story, read this, beginning with Part 1.
A few months after my "fall to grace", a friend of mine who had a similar experience commented, "It's as if life had become a contest --- she with the most convictions wins!"
Ah, yes...those standards and convictions! As I moved from conservative to ultra-conservative to ultra-ultra-conservative (another friend of mine assured me that I never quite made it to "triple ultra") I began to accumulate more and more of those "high standards" and convictions. My life became more and more about what I wouldn't do, what I wouldn't wear, what I wouldn't allow in my home, what my children wouldn't be exposed to, etc.
Looking back, I realize that there was a lot of good common sense in some of those ideas. But there was also a lot of fear, a lot of trying to control things, a lot of trying to live in such a way as to guarantee God's blessings on me and my family. Of course I never thought I was legalistic. After all, I knew some real legalists, and they went far beyond what I was doing and thinking. In fact, at my most legalistic, I spent a lot of time cautioning other parents against legalistic childrearing advice. The irony of this was lost on me.
Joy was dying in my life, being replaced by a kind of heady excitement about all that I was learning. There was a lot of guilt and inadequacy, along with a growing sense of self-righteousness. During that time, some of my friendships suffered as I grew to realize that we were no longer "like-minded" about convictions such as educational choice, clothing, movies, etc.
Along the way there were warning signs. People would assume, just from the way our family looked and dressed, that we were either part of Bill Gothard's ATIA program (which we weren't) or part of a cult. My husband was becoming more and more perplexed about some of my ideas, while I began inwardly bemoaning his lack of spiritual leadership and discernment. I mean, what was with this guy? Why was he so liberal as to insist that I wear pants when we went camping?
Church became dry. Our sweet little fellowship has dissolved, and we had joined an Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Every communion Sunday, we would recite or sing the Ten Commandments as we examined our hearts to see if we were worthy enough to partake of the sacrament. Hymns were all too frequently sung with all the enthusiasm of funeral dirges. Instead of Sunday being a delight, it became almost an oppressive day. At one point, my husband spilled something in the garage and felt guilty when our son discovered him "working" as he cleaned the mess. While my husband felt free to regard each day as another, he deferred to me, even while we debated Sabbath-keeping.
It wasn't a fun time for our family.
Then God, in His providence, brought into my life a pastor from Texas, a man whose favorite topic seemed to be grace. He was on some sort of obnoxious crusade, or so it seemed to me, to send everyone on the internet his near-heretical lesson series on Law versus Grace. Soon I had my very own copy.
More to come...