This is part four leading up to the last of the 91 little things finale. In Part One (click), I gave you the skinny on who we are. In the Second installment (click), I gave you some insight into our emotional background. Part Three (click) has me wondering if some of you are still reading. I’m laying it all out there, friends; not the easiest thing in the world to do.
Today, I am going to touch on another sticky subject. Obedience. It’s a tough word these days; well, it probably always has been. What is it inside all of us that struggles to lay down our own will and submit to authority? Do you feel like I do, that societally, the concept of obedience has gotten much less acceptable?
I think it all boils down to respect. We’ve been having some serious discussions in the last year about that word. You simply cannot have a healthy relationship without it. This applies to friendships, marriages, parental figures, workplace environments, and even our relationships with our children — none of them work if you lose respect for someone. I’m not talking about losing respect for someone because they made a mistake. This is more like when you learn about someone’s heart — their very motives and intentions — and decide if you can be on board with that or not.
As a family, we have seen this play out time and time again. It has cost us relationships with parents, friends, pastors, and bosses.
Because respect can never be demanded and won. It can only be earned, and that requires intention and a determination to be worthy of respect.
We can all think of folks who demanded it without having their actions match up to their desire to be worthy of respect, can we not? Did that make the relationship between you better or worse? We can also think of people who wanted respect, but couldn’t follow through on choices that matched up with who they purported themselves to be. That hypocrisy certainly does not earn respect.
Pretty tough to want to explore the aspect of obedience when respect is absent. It only leads to anger and bitterness and frustration.
And then, when folks attribute human-like tendencies to a limitless, all-knowing, only and always loving God, one could lose their desire to obey. I did that. I likened Him to the examples of authority I had around me. I saw Him as rule-maker. I listened to small ideas others had of Him and their descriptions made Him seem much more like a parent on an authority kick than what He would become to me. Once Christian and I found ourselves separated from those wrong ideas, we began to taste and see that He is good. And thankfully, He was patient. Over the next 30 years, He would prove His love, increase our trust, ask us to obey, and then bless that listening we did. He was also not willing to let us remain as babies in our obedience. As we practiced these truths, He asked bigger things.
He laid out a path for us to see if we were willing to follow. I’m sure we missed a few along the way, but like the best version of a Choose Your Own Adventure book, He always had a good plan for us even if we chose paths sometimes that weren’t His best and first choice for us. With the obedience, came an income tax of sorts each time to keep us humble — a ton of amazing and exciting rewards and a bit of tax.
None of this made us popular, in fact, folks dropped out of our lives like so many flies. But not the ones that saw the real us and really listened as we became a family that homeschooled, worked from home, bucked systems, traveled the country, left church ministries, and eventually moved far away. God seemed to want us to refuse to settle for ordinary — to see if we would be willing to follow Him down His yellow brick road of sorts. To set down every single thing that might hinder our view of and relationship with Him. Would we trust Him with our finances in the most literal way to let go of careers and step into the unknown? Would we trust Him with our health when we went against what doctors emphatically demanded for my sweet man and listen to only Him (thank goodness we did!! click for more)? Would we trust Him with the futures of our children as we made them sit a bit outside of normal and teach them at home back when I was waiting to be arrested for doing so? (click here for more on this)
God’s commands do US a favor to draw us into His dream for us.Bill Johnson
I think my view of the word itself has changed. What used to feel like being forced now feels like an opportunity.
I’ll never forget the time a few years ago that my husband, son, and I went for a hike to a gorge not far from our home. It might be our favorite spot up here. It reminds of aspects of Idaho, West Virginia, and some national parks. At the bottom of a mountain is a meandering river with several waterfalls. At the deepest part of the gorge a rushing waterfall cascades into a whirlpool area where we dip at least our toes in depending on the day and weather. On this particular day, we tossed out the idea of a bit of cliff-jumping. My boys have done this far more than I. I was going to attempt a new thing that scared me quite a bit. But I have this part of me that can’t not do the thing. I want the experience more than I want to stay safe. I didn’t have a swimsuit and quite frankly, my poor son had to see me in my skivvies which required some humility — not to mention that any hikers that came upon the scene would also get quite the view! We made our way up the cliff to the jumping point on which I balanced precariously. It took several minutes and watching one of them jump to wait for me at the bottom while I waged a lengthy mental battle. You see, to go back down that cliff in my unders would be more humiliating and dangerous than just committing to the jump. But, was I a strong enough swimmer to handle the swim to safety once I emerged from the water without getting swept away? Would I break an arm on the entrance? Was this even worth it? But conversely, could I live with myself for not taking the chance to experience something big for Alison? I wanted to be courageous more than I wanted to be safe. So I jumped. And I came up from the water a stronger, better version of myself. And I’ll never forget that feeling. Great risk, great reward.
Obedience may not be what you may think it is, friends. If you want your path to be sensical and ordinary and predictable, there is always that option. And it will remain those things. But if you want more, you have to get down to your skivvies and be willing to leap!! Great risk, great reward. And the knowledge of the love, the depth of relationship, the undeniable stories and blessings — they’re yours for the taking.