I’ve heard both my husband, Ed, and his mother share a particularly funny story many times. It’s a memory that evokes laughter and understanding from those listening. Even if we weren’t there personally or haven’t experienced the same exact thing, almost everyone is able to relate.
When Ed was a young boy in elementary school, his mother had made a large batch of his favorite cookies. Well, almost… She had placed a large mixing bowl full of freshly made dough in the refrigerator to set. After school, he opened the refrigerator and saw it there, beckoning him to partake. He asked his mother if it was ok, and she promptly and clearly told him no.
After she had gone to bed that night, Ed quietly snuck into the kitchen. He just couldn’t resist. These were his favorite cookies! He grabbed a spoon and scooped a heaping portion into his mouth. It was just as good as he thought it would be. Maybe even better. But, he needed another taste to be sure. And then another. And another. Finally, he stopped to take a breath and realized he had eaten too much to go unnoticed. At that point, he thought, “I might as well enjoy more.” So, he did. Until it was all gone.
With a full belly, a smile from ear-to-ear and a temptation satisfied, Ed went to bed wanting to savor this moment. He knew his mom wouldn’t be happy in the morning, but for now, he was so happy that he had indulged. “It was worth it,” he decided. With a deep, fulfilling sigh, he closed his eyes to go to sleep.
As he laid there, giving his body the monumental job of digesting all that cookie dough, his stomach rejected the plan his eyes had established. To this day, Ed swears the dough was rising in his stomach, just like dough rising in the bread-making process. He doubled over in pain, and his mom, awakened by his agonizing moans and groans, came running to his room to see what was wrong. She found him writhing in bed, holding his swollen stomach. It wasn’t until that moment that Ed felt any remorse or regret. Only then did he realize his mom had given him wise counsel. Eating the cookie dough wasn’t a good idea. Eating all of it was the worst idea ever!
So often, our natural tendency is to look at obedience as a limitation; as something that takes always life’s enjoyment and fulfillment. More often than not, however, obedience to those who love us (especially God, who loves us more than humanly possible) leads to sustainable joy and more life.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)
In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, (1 John 5:3)
He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” (Luke 11:28)
We are God’s children, and He is our good, good Father. Just like a good parent warns their children about things that could hurt (crossing the street without looking, touching a hot stove or eating raw cookie dough) or things that could enrich (getting enough sleep, eating vegetables or practicing a skill), our loving God does the same for us. His guidance is for our best, and our obedience to Him is for our benefit. He knows all things and His knowledge spans all time; therefore, He knows exactly how to lead us to lasting happiness. We can have confidence in following His will for us.
As I sit and think about leaning into God and His ways, it seems logical to look at what He cares about most. If He says it’s important, we can trust that prioritizing it will be for our best. It will benefit our lives and our circles of influence. And if all who know Him would obey, it would go well for a huge portion of the world.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40)
I can’t think of a more timely need for obedience in our world.
Can you just imagine if this was the priority? Millions of people loving God and loving others; doing things that please Him; speaking words of encouragement and hope; lifting others regardless of differences and pointing to the source of love itself.
It makes me weep to think how far we are from this reality today. It also opens my eyes to another reality. As so many of us weep, there is an enemy who is celebrating. His goal is not only to divide and destroy, but to make us doubt that God’s word is true.
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)
Satan is cheering for hatred, violence, prejudice and racism. He’s been cheering for a while, and he’s been able to throw an all-out party recently. He doesn’t want us to love others as God calls, and make no mistake, he will be cunning (and even charming) in his approach. He will twist and turn as he lures with power, makes claims for safety and security and proposes that holding someone else back is better for our own personal gain.
HE IS A LIAR.
We need to call out the enemy and his tactics. We need to see his lies and deception. And, most importantly, we need to be obedient to what God calls us to do: love Him, first and foremost, and love others. It WILL go well for us. It WILL improve the situation. It WILL impact our world.
This week, in particular, my stomach hurts. I have literally moaned and groaned in pain for people of color. I have ached and cried for their hurts, and I wish it was as simple as a cookie dough issue. But, there is an answer. God has already given us the guidance to follow.
Love. We are called to it. Never before in my lifetime have I ever wanted to see more, do more, speak more and share more. It’s what needs to be most contagious right now. Not a virus. Not hatred. But love.
Love is the answer. Lord, help us to obey.
Father, God, I beg you to open our eyes. Help us each see ourselves clearly. Help us to see any prejudice or unfair bias within ourselves. Show us how to replace it with love. Equip us to be part of the healing around us. Let us be known for our love, and may we glorify You in the process. In Jesus’ name, Amen.