Of Babies and Bathwater

We’ve all heard that saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Too often in my life, I’ve focused on the bathwater to the exclusion of the baby.

I’ve talked before about the legalistic Christian background from which I’ve come. I can’t say it’s always been that way in every church I’ve ever attended, but those of us who need to feel safe often gravitate toward legalism. We like clearly defined boundaries because it helps us know what is expected of us. Perhaps it even gives us a sense of control when, for much of our lives, things have been out of control.

The danger is that ultimately, we become too narrow. Something God never intended.

Hebrews 12 encourages us to lay aside every weight and run the race set before us with endurance. Sometimes, we’re so used to thinking in terms of our sin that we don’t even see that legalism is an equally dangerous hindrance. It bars us from entering situations in which God not only wants to use us, He wants to give us something. We think that people who don’t live the way we do have nothing to offer us.

There are two phrases that come to mind. That of having a holier-than-thou attitude, and being so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good.

I can’t believe how many years I was limited by the belief that there were only a few things I was allowed to do. Perhaps it started out with the thought that all things are lawful for me, but not all things are expedient. It is a great verse but I have to be careful because I know my tendency to take everything literally. I can be very black and white. It goes back to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Writing German-perspective historical fiction means reading books I would never have considered under other circumstances, even though WWII has been a lifelong fascination. To be honest I still bite my lip a little when I go to used book sales and buy books with titles such as The History of the SS. Especially when there’s a whole stack of books like that.

I’m only about 20 pages in, but I’ve already learned something from this book that spoke directly to my heart. You know who had a tendency to take things too literally? Heinrich Himmler. The head of the SS.

That’s a terrible extreme, but it shows how dangerous it can be when we make things so black and white. When we interpret things that we learn as children so literally that they plant themselves deep inside our psyche and become the entire paradigm from which we operate. It affects the way we deal with people, and how we deal with ourselves.

Dialing it down to the more mundane level of an American housewife, in my case it made me so hard on myself that I was afraid to do anything, for fear it might be the wrong thing. It contributed to thirty years of cycles of severe depression and anxiety that would have destroyed me if God had not had his protecting hand over my life.

It also affected the way I dealt with others. My life became so limited that I dwelt inside a safe church-and-homeschool cocoon for years. I judged other Christians who lived with more freedom than I did. Family parties made me sick with anxiety. In some instances, I stopped attending parties all together.

Little did I know that I was the one who was falling short of the grace of God. Jesus was a perfect example of balance. Whatever your opinion of The Chosen, I love the episode that depicts the wedding at Cana. Jesus was free to socialize, dance, and even drink wine with these people. Furthermore, as a friend pointed out to me, He not only attended a party where alcohol flowed freely, He made more when they ran out.

Let me be clear, if one has a problem with addiction, it is important that they do whatever they need to do to avoid putting themselves into a situation in which they are not able to control themselves. But for others, have we simply locked ourselves out of a situation in which we could really be of use to God? To be a ray of sunshine and hope?

I’m not a preacher, in fact I usually don’t talk very openly about my faith unless asked. However, this theme comes up in The Prodigal Sons and I think it’s worthy of consideration. Pastor Friedrich sees the hopelessness in Germany after the First World War. He wants so badly to encourage these broken, disillusioned men, especially former soldiers, knowing full well that many of them won’t set foot in a church. He wants to be where they are. That includes the Kneipe (bar). They pick on him because he’s a preacher but they love him just the same, and he loves them. They’re his “boys.” He fears for them and encourages them to stay out of the extremism and political insanity burgeoning around them.

Although he ends up starting a little Gemeinde (in this context, a home church) with some of them, the thing that makes Friedrich and his boys so comfortable with each other is that he isn’t just there as a preacher. He’s there as a human being, a friend, and he enjoys their company as much as they enjoy his.

How many times have we been afraid to do something simply because it’s outside the box of what we feel is acceptable for someone who wants to live a life of worship to God? I realize that there is often a fear of abusing His grace, but if we’re really walking close with Him, He’s going to guide us, and He might just guide us somewhere totally unexpected. Somewhere that ends up adding a beautifully unexpected dimension to our lives. That’s where rescuing the baby from the bathwater comes in. It’s an opportunity to walk more closely with Him as He expands who we are into all that He’s intended us to be.

2 thoughts on “Of Babies and Bathwater

  1. My Dearest Friend, I am so moved. You have made me cry. It is so true that we can lock ourselves in and by so ding, miss many chances to shower others with the love of God by being loving and no more. I love you Aubrey and am thankful that the Lord has brought you in my life. Thank you. You are baby that I will never throw out with the bathwater. Love Debbie

    Liked by 1 person

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