I have been thinking about obedience lately. It is one of those words like prudence and chastity that is not used much. You never hear it in wedding vows and very rarely hear it being told to children. Perhaps that is not such a bad thing but I think we may be missing an important structure in our society.
Being obedient was brought home to me the other weekend when my husband and I took our dogs to the vets for a nail trim. I was inside waiting to settle up the bill while my husband took our two scallawags outside. As he waited along the side of the building, a dog that was boarding took off from behind the vets and started running down the street with the poor vet tech chasing behind. My husband secured our dogs and went to help the tech. The dog, a young terrier mix was extremely scared but also out for a frolic along a busy intersection and road. Our vet is located on a fairly busy country road with side roads of new developments mixed with farm land. The dog ran down many of the lanes and into the fields. She then would circle back to the main road and criss cross into traffic. Try as we might, she would not come to us.
At one point I was able to “corner” her in a portion of a field that was fenced on two sides. I crouched low, kept still and called her. She finally stopped bolting and lay down about a hand’s length beyond my grasp. As I tried to hook her up to the leash, she slipped out of my grip. She bolted, then stopped, looked at me and sprinted off into some deep woods.
My husband and I helped the vet staff for about two hours stopping neighbors to tell them about the little dog. The staff continued to call and look for her far into the twilight and night. The next day we got a call from them to say that the dog continued to criss-cross over the road and wouldn’t come to them. Tragically she was hit by a car. The vets tried to save her but to no avail.
With our independent streaks, we are not comfortable with someone telling us what to do. We want to control our own destiny and our own way. Unfortunately we deceive ourselves if we think that we are in control: life has too many variables for us to be in charge. All we can control is our reaction to what comes down our path.
Obedience comes when we realize that someone has a better handle on what is happening: more experience, education, or understanding. It would be wise to heed their advice, listen to their commands and do what they suggest. In the case of the little terrier, had she listened to our calls, she would have been safe. She represents not only time lost for her and those spent looking for her but also a life lost.
The whole idea of listening and obedience had me thinking. In obeying are we really giving up independence? Or are we choosing to be wise by listening to others with greater wisdom? The Hebrew writer says “to obey is greater than sacrifice.” There is the expression blind obedience but I think there is blind sacrifice. Either option seems to imply that one doesn’t have a choice in the matter. One responds almost by rote. Yet I think that there are choices in both options. We can choose to obey. We can choose what and how much we sacrifice.
Whether obedience is blind or fully understood, it also requires trust in the one whom we obey. It requires that we recognize why we should and could trust that person.
In the case of obedience to God- how can we not trust Him? God is love. Pure and thoroughly. He desires the best for us because He made us. It is inconceivable that He would harm us in any way just like it is inconceivable that we would’ve harmed that little terrier.
I think of the many times I did not (and still do not at times) listen to what is good for me. I strike out on my own and don’t come back to the safety of God’s path. If only I would learn that being obedient is not an act of weakness. It is an act of being smart. I could then get over myself and my thinking that I know best. I could embrace what I, at first glance, feel is “someone telling me what to do.” I could then move on to doing the things that God is calling me to do; willingly and obediently.
What about you? How are you with obedience? Do you bristle at someone’s attempt of guiding or helping you? Do you feel like someone is trying to squash your independence? Do you welcome the guidance? Have you ever obeyed and later realized that through obedience you avoided a catastrophe? Do you truly, deep down know that God loves you and wants the best for you?
What do you choose? To obey or not to obey?