Whenever the word “Obey” crosses my path, my ears perk, I sit up a bit straighter, and my full attention goes right to what I am hearing or reading. I imagine this comes from my Catholic upbringing. I just inherently know that when I hear that word, I better listen well. Reflecting on my upbringing, when I was younger, obedience sure was a lot easier. It entailed following the rules that adults laid before me and making good choices. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? And years upon years later, it still entails following the rules and making good choices. But as we grow, the rules and choices grow.
Obedience becomes more and more about choices.
Many sources suggest that the average person is faced with 35,000 choices per day. While we could ponder and debate this statistic all day long, we certainly cannot debate the fact that we’re faced with a myriad of choices even before our feet hit the floor each morning. Some choices may be day-altering, some even life-altering. All of the choices are ours to make.
I would argue that the best choice I can make each morning is to have a conversation with God and seek His will for my day. That’s the choice I made a few days ago when I was considering what to write about this blog. As I was praying that morning, the Parable of the Talents (also known as The Parable of the Bags of Gold) came to me. Specifically, this verse kept echoing in my head:
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” – Matthew 25:21, 23
Obedience is hard. At times, it can be surprisingly hard in the small things. Taking intentional time out of my day to read the Bible. Getting up early to hit the gym. Having that difficult conversation with my spouse. Dropping a meal to a neighbor. Making that quick phone call to check in on a friend. Taking 15 minutes out of my evening to hear about my son’s day. Following the speed limit on my way to work. (Couldn’t resist…Anyone??) In the grand scheme of life, each individually considered, some of these could be seemingly small. I can talk myself out of the individual significance of many of these on any given day, or at least easily put them off. And when we do, how easy it is to continue down that slippery slope. Saying no to the smaller things seems to give permission to continue that trend, and it’s a trend line no one loves to follow.
But what happens when I follow through on a good choice? When I take time to dig into my Bible. When I get up and hit the gym, no matter how tired I am. When I have that hard conversation with my husband, bringing a conflict to the light so we can get past it. When I let a neighbor know I care. When I encourage a friend. When I lean in and listen to my child… Any one of these choices can be quite significant. They can change the trajectory of my faith, my relationships, and even my health. In refection, I know that the more obedient I am towards things in my life, the greater the reward. Obedience brings blessings to our lives, and can in turn, bless the lives of those around us. It just starts with one choice. One decision. One seemingly small thing.
I do recognize that obedience can also feel downright inconvenient. It often means choosing the hard thing over the easier thing and taking time when time is such a precious commodity. However, habitual routines of these good choices will serve as a training ground for more substantial choices that come our way that will require more discipline to obey.
A couple of years ago, my husband and I started a morning routine of connecting and praying together before our day. We made this choice to spend 15 minutes of our day together to intentionally listen to and build into one another. We did this believing that obedience in following through on this each day would ultimately bear fruit over time – in our marriage, as parents, in our work outside of the home, and among our circles of influence. Now when we’re faced with tougher circumstances (i.e. moving from temporary home to temporary home while trying to find a new home to purchase during the pandemic), being obedient to this discipline has been critical to our family’s overall well-being. It can also be a powerful witness to others.
So how can we as believers use obedience as a tool to navigate through these crazy times? Maybe the better question is, how do I look through the fog of my circumstances, biases, and feelings to get at both the truth and the obedient love required now? That of true understanding, and hearing another person’s point of view despite their circumstances, biases, and feelings. This is love. This is showing humility. And this is trusting that when we do these things, we’re pleasing God. I think this is the obedience that is most pleasing to God.
Obedience is a form of love (John 13:34). It is a form of humility (Ephesians 4:2). And it requires trust (Proverbs 3:5-6). In Galatians 6:2, we learn that when we love and obey God, that love overflows to others. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” And the more we do this – yes, you guessed it – that discipline leads to habitual behavior. With each good choice and each new discipline, we look more and more like Christ.
So perhaps a great place to start right now is to choose that one small thing with which we can be faithful. The new thing I am choosing is to take time to listen to others – to do less talking and more listening. And I will hold on to his promises as I continue to try to be obedient in the big and small things. Perhaps, when I hear the word, “Obey”, my ears perk, I sit up a bit straighter, and my full attention goes right to what I am hearing or reading because my loving Heavenly Father wants to get my attention.
Thank you, Lord for reminding me of the importance of being faithful to just one thing. Thank you for loving me enough to want to grab my attention and pull it towards the things you want me to obey. I know that not one thing is too small in your economy, because this world is yours and you care about all of it. I pray you continue to nudge me in the spaces where you want me to be obedient. While they may not seem significant to me in the moment, I know my obedience in them is significant to you. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.