How often have you been walking through your home (over areas you know so well) and tripped? It can happen because someone moves a piece of furniture, leaves an item on the floor, or we fail to turn on the light and try to navigate in the dark.
One of the things we sometimes trip over is obedience.
Just for clarity, let’s see how a dictionary describes obedience. The dictionary I am looking at reads:
“compliance with an order, request, or law or submission to another’s authority”
That makes it pretty obvious why obedience can trip us up. If we are honest, most of us will admit that we prefer to do what we want to do, in the way we want to do it, and when we want to do it.
Choosing to obey means we need to bend our will to someone outside of ourselves.
It’s little wonder that one of the challenges a parent faces is teaching a child to be obedient, to “train up a child in the way he should go…”from that familiar passage in Proverbs 22:6. On the other side of that challenge is the child (of ANY age) who has to comply.
It can be tempting to keep the subject of obedience in the area of childhood or in some cases with the law portions of scripture, but the bigger test is how we respond to obedience as adults.
There are the usual things we kid about like whether or not we obey the speed limit, yellow caution lights, school zones, and moving out of the way of emergency vehicles. There are also a fair number of other laws or rules we are subject to in our rule-governed society (even in this era where it seems they can be ignored or mocked).
There are the moral codes we tend to know, as well as ethical codes that govern most professions. Then there is the question of whether your marriage vow included the word “obey” or not and your understanding of the vow and what it means. But there is so much more to obedience than even this growing list.
Obedience also means tuning in and following the nudges of the Holy Spirit from the Lord.
Those nudges are ones we can doubt or question and really get in the way of our plans. Our resistance also reveals remnants of the old sin nature we inherited from the Garden of Eden and our selfish bent.
I love what Jennifer Dukes Lee has written about obedience in her latest book, It’s All Under Control:
“Obedience is not for wimps….It turns out that obedience is quite often a gutsy thing that will compel you to stand upright and march forward, even if it threatens your security, your own longings, and your idea of success. Obedience is not an act of the weak, but a rising up of the strong. Obedience might embarrass you or inconvenience you. Sometimes it will leave you in the dark, and the only light you will see is the small patch pooling at your feet. You ask for a spotlight to see straight ahead into the next two years of your life, but instead God gives you a ‘lamp unto (your) feet’ and lets you see no further than this hour.”
Because the Lord has not given us one of those LED lights that shine a long distance ahead, the challenge to obey is often difficult since we can’t see why and what He asks of us in the moment may make no sense to us.
We tend to be myopic. God has that picture, but He also has the long view and the end is in mind. He obviously knows what is needed to get us there and is committed to help us do so if we will yield and obey those Holy Spirit nudges and whispers.
We certainly see a plethora of examples in the Bible of what happens when people don’t obey from Cain onward. Sadly, we mistake the goodness of God when He points us where we should go so we accomplish his will and design for us. What’s worse is how often those around us who didn’t get the same message question what it is we believe we are to do.
Something else that happens is that we miss how early He begins to lead us to where He may want us to go and what He wants us to do. Incredible, right?
I recently published my first book (Bring Me A Vision, A Story of Redeeming Hope). In the scheme of books and authors, it is a small beginning. Nevertheless it felt like a big risk to take that step.
I first sensed a nudge to write the book in 2015 and since it was someone else’s life story, I needed to risk putting that idea in front of her for her acceptance or rejection. I didn’t know at the time that writing a true story is one of the harder books to write due to all the legal and liability concerns. I had obeyed the nudge before I knew that, but it didn’t surprise the Lord. If I had known that first, I might have worn earplugs and refused to hear Him.
There were many challenges along the way and in September of 2017, we laid the book down when some of the doors to publishing we had pursued closed. We felt a peace about waiting and obeyed that nudge and little by little, one door and then another opened until the book was released at the beginning of August 2018.
I was full of self-doubt about nearly every step, but risked being obedient. Then a few weeks ago I was reviewing my 2013 journal and noted an entry from October 2013 where I had written what I sensed from the Lord:
“The book is within you. It is you that has not believed. The vision has not been about one thing only, but has been about courage and belief to use what I have placed in you and not bury that gift.”
I was stunned when I read the entry. I had long ago forgotten this and when I sense something like this and write it in my journal I know if it is from Him that I can wait to see if my hearing was accurate.
At the time I was still working as a licensed professional clinical counselor in full-time ministry with no time to write (except case notes) even though it had been a lifelong desire to write. It was not until early 2015 He nudged me to participate in a Writer’s Boot Camp that required I start a website and begin blogging. He put each little piece in place over a long period of time. He saw the big picture. I did not.
“Every day we have a choice to make. We can choose to believe that God sees the bigger picture and that we are here to put certain pieces in place, even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when it’s inconvenient. Even when it hurts. Even when we have to surrender every outcome.” Jennifer Dukes Lee
I think we will be less likely to trip over obedience if we can remember that God has the eternal perspective and knows exactly where He wants to take us and do in and through us.