How to Misbehave with Auntie Ashley

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“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” ― Pablo Picasso

By Ashley Mandanici | Twitter: @ashleymandanici

I am a rule follower. People always seem surprised when I say that, but I am. I find great pleasure in being obedient probably because obedience is often accompanied by praise–and rewards. I am also very competitive, so if following the rules means I can beat somebody at something, I am all over it.

Advice for Africa

Before I headed off to Uganda for my current five-month excursion, I received a lot of “advice” about how I should conduct myself during my stay. Some of it was truly helpful, and some of it was … well, less than helpful (and even slightly offensive). The more advice I received, the more it began sounding like rules. So, I did what I do best and started compiling a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” I could carefully abide by.

The ones that really stuck with me (and that I heard more than four times) are as follows:

I would like to note that I don’t do any of these things in Canada, which contributed towards my confusion when others seemed to expect these actions of me in Uganda.

Don’t Behave

On my last weekend at church before I left for Uganda, an older gentleman in our congregation came over to say goodbye. He and his wife are quite the world travelers, so I waited with anticipation, confident the advice he’d give would be truly helpful. He held my hands tightly and shook them as he spoke, which usually either means that whatever is going to be said is will be pure gold, or the individual has no personal bubble. I sensed that what was coming was deep.

He looked into my eyes and said, “Here’s my advice to you: Don’t behave.”

I laughed slightly and waited for him to throw in a “I’m totally kidding! Now here’s what you need to do …” But he didn’t. He was serious. I walked away perplexed, wondering if he didn’t understand that I made my living out of behaving.

What happens in Uganda …

Once I arrived in Uganda, I discovered that Uganda (much like Canada) had a whole new set of rules for me to follow. With every rule I received, the more I began to doubt my ability to survive here. What if I did get sick? What if I did get mugged? What if I threw caution to the wind and came home with a little more than I planned for? What happens if I break all the rules and single-handedly ruin all of God’s plans for me?

The truth of the matter is, I’d become very impressed with my ability to follow the rules. However, in the process of all this rule-following I had turned God into this easily agitated schoolteacher with a ruler in hand just waiting for me to mess up. My goal was no longer obedience; it was getting a gold sticker on my homework at the end of the day, instead of a slap on the wrist.

I think that’s why when Jesus came to earth, his directions were simple: love God, and love others. All the religious people were freaking out and wanted rules, but Jesus came with love.

The Art of Rule-breaking

So, I threw out my list of rules. I don’t mean to say I am now going out and breaking all the rules or that I forgot all the rules—I know the rules like a pro!

I’m just beginning to see that God does not care about my ability to behave as much as God cares about my ability to be in love.

__________________________

So, my SheLoves beauty queens:

  • Are you more of a rule follower, or a rule breaker?
  • Do you find yourself making a lot of rules for yourself and/or others? How’s it working for you?
  • How has your ability to follow (or not follow) rules affected your relationship with God and others?

____________________________

About Ashley:

My name is Ashley and I am the Children’s Ministry Coordinator at Relate Church in Surrey, B.C. My mission is to develop the God-given potential in every child who crosses my path *Insert Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All” here*. I love all things jazzy, particularly music, and I tend to break into song throughout the day for no apparent reason. I blog here and tweet @AshleyMandanici

About Katelyn, the Artist:

Katelyn Szekeres is the writer of the blog, oddbutnice.com where she details her neurotic childhood, marriage and sometimes-evil cat, Gizmo. When she’s not doing that, she works as a Mental Health Worker, makes weird crafts, takes lots of photos and plans where she will be traveling next!

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Ashley Mandanici
My name is Ashley and I am the Children’s Ministry Coordinator at Relate Church in Surrey, B.C. My mission is to develop the God-given potential in every child who crosses my path *Insert Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All” here*. I love all things jazzy, particularly music, and I tend to break into song throughout the day for no apparent reason.
Ashley Mandanici

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Ashley Mandanici
  • Love that last line, Ashley. Good stuff.

  • I have always been a rule-follower. And so many times, Godly counselors have said, “break loose, chill out, break a few rules.” And I’ve been told, “You need to set some boundaries, not do what everyone else thinks you should be doing.” I know that’s right in many ways, but sometimes my efforts at setting boundaries and being myself and more wide open and honest haven’t been done tactfully or well. I have hurt others too. I’m trying to learn how to be prudent, graceful, and meek without being abrasive, insensitive and selfish.
    http://www.predatory-lies.com

  • Oh how devine…who want’s to behave in Africa anyway…! 🙂 I’m glad you chose to shed those rules under the African sun!!

    The Afrikaans, Dutch Reformed part of me can follow rules to the dot, but my natural instinct is to break them….! I know the rules – so it’s not like I’m all wild like a “zoo-child”.

    Since shedding my own issues with rules and “works” my relationship with God became real…and my relationships with other too!

  • i laughed OUT LOUD at those illustrations! Love them!! Especially the one for “Don’t come home with a husband” hahaha thanks for putting a smile on my face this morning!

  • This is a fantastic piece. I think this image: “He looked into my eyes and said, “Here’s my advice to you: Don’t behave.”” will stick with me for a long time.

  • Nyam

    I am definitely a rule keeper! And it always astounds when I see people not following “the rules,” real or perceived. I’m in a time now where God is inviting me to break rules and expectations that I’ve set up for myself b/c I think I’ve forgotten what you mention in your piece that God wants me to love more than be perfect or master a bunch of rules.

  • Oh man… speak to me! I just wrote about this idea (but not as nicely as you did). I think I’m tired of Christian sisters doggedly saying the right things when saying the true things would be so freeing.
    ‘I think that’s why when Jesus came to earth, his directions were simple: love God, and love others. All the religious people were freaking out and wanted rules, but Jesus came with love.’
    Sweet truth that I needed to hear someone else say tonight. Thanks =)