My children have this tendency that brings out the crazy eye really quickly in me. It’s called disobedience. I’m not talking the “I stole a treat from the pantry” kind of disobedience, or even the “I was mad at my brother so I threw a toy at him” disobedience. No, I’m talking about the kind of disobedience where I know that I know that I know that they heard me give a direction, but they just choose to do whatever they want anyways. It’s maddening.
This is especially true when we’re trying to leave to go somewhere, like to school, every morning. I do not want to say 12 times “Get your shoes on.”
Sometimes I ask my kids, “How many times do I need to ask you to do this?”
They always reply, “Just once.” Uh-huh. Sure.
I know that my experience is a common one, because we’ve all chuckled at the meme on Facebook where the mom loses her chill before anyone listens to her about their shoes. “Why is Mom so crazy?” they ask in wonderment.
I’m not sure why this is a struggle other than they’re kids and they’re too focused on other things, like the Paw Patrol Pups and Matchbox cars littered across my floor. They can’t see the big picture. They can’t read the clock. They don’t know that school starts in T-minus 10 minutes, and we live 7 minutes from the school. They don’t realize that I’m asking for all these small steps of obedience so that we can arrive at our destination as scheduled, to fulfill our intended purposes for the day.
What I want is best for all of us, but they often go kicking and screaming instead of with the ease of obedience.
Kicking and screaming. That’s probably a good description of my stance with the Lord sometimes.
Priscilla Shirer hit me between the eyes in her Bible study on hearing and obeying God: “God doesn’t speak to be heard. He speaks to be obeyed.” So often we want to hear what God is saying, but when he does speak up, we simply continue to focus on our own little world, arranging our own little “pups” just how we want them instead of following his directives. My heart cries for his voice, to hear him speak, but then when he does, I delay, I resist, sometimes I flat out ignore, because I’m too busy with my own plans and desires.
The situation is the same: God sees the big picture, and we don’t. He knows where we need to be and when we need to be there.
I was especially struck by this truth in recently reading the story of Philip in Acts. God tells him to get up and head down the desert road to the South. Immediately Philip does this. He happens upon the chariot of an important man from Ethiopia, and God directs him to remain near the chariot. Luke tells us that Philip ran to the chariot. He ran. He didn’t ponder if he ought to listen to those directions, he didn’t continue arranging his scrolls or adjusting his robes and sandals — he ran! And because he ran, he was near the chariot at exactly the right moment, when the Ethiopian was reading an important piece of Scripture. So Philip got to share with him the gospel of Jesus Christ. The man believed and was baptized. Because of Philip’s obedience, this man’s life was forever changed, and he took his new knowledge of Jesus back to his own country and people. All because Philip obeyed, immediately.
Proverbs 3:27 has been rolling through my head on repeat as I’ve pondered obedience: “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it is in your power to act.” There are so many times that I feel a nudge to do something for someone, to pray, to offer a word of encouragement, but unlike Philip, I don’t run towards the opportunity. I withdraw into myself and think “I couldn’t possibly do that.” But the words of this Proverb and the words of Priscilla have driven me onward into opportunities to obey. When we obey, we release our perceived notion of control, and we embrace God’s control, and that we are moving pieces in his grand design. We embrace the good works he prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:10). And who knows, maybe someone’s life will forever be changed because of our obedience, or maybe we’ll just make it to school on time for once.