Lions and tigers and obedience…oh my!
Obedience. The word makes me shudder. To submit your will to another. To do what someone else tells you to do.
This is always tough. In our “do anything you want” world, obedience seems ridiculous. Why would you ever ever ever pick someone else’s will over your own? No. Go make your own decisions, live your own life, pick your own truths. Don’t let anyone else hold you down. Right?
Pastor’s the Boss
As a youth minister, I work for pastors. Believe me, it gets tough. (Imagine getting annoyed with your boss…and remembering that you might have to go to confession with him later). If there’s anyone you’re supposed to be obedient to…he’s the guy.
Once I left a meeting with my pastor and I just wanted to bang my head against my desk. He had made a series of program changes—and I hated all of them. I called a fellow youth minister and she said: “You have to be obedient.” She was trying to be helpful, but it definitely freaked me out.
Working through these changes was a roller coaster, full of challenges and joys. Over this time the Holy Spirit definitely schooled me on obedience. And so, here you have it—the things I wish I had known about obedience before I went through all of this.
The Six Things I Wish I had known about Obedience:
- Obedience can’t make you sin. I think this is a big question for a lot of people. What if I agree to be obedient to someone, and they ask me to do something sinful? Easy answer: don’t do it. If your spouse or spiritual director tells you to go rob a bank, your answer should be “Heck no.” Inherently sinful demands are a no-go.
- Jesus was obedient. Jesus was obedient to His Father’s will. “Jesus was obedient unto death, even death on a cross…” (Philippians 2:8). But something I need to remember is that Jesus was also obedient to fallible, human authority. Just think of Jesus before Pilate (check out John 19:1-16). Jesus submitted himself to this roman official’s decision (think about that next time your boss makes a dumb call!).
- Obedience doesn’t mean “No questions asked.” I thought obedience meant that you never question the decision. When someone says “go,” you go, and that’s that. Not so! Mary, our great example of obedience with her “yes” to the Lord, asked questions! She questioned Gabriel—how the heck was she going to have the son of God? When we’re called to obedience, we should ask questions (if we do it with Mary’s spirit of trust).
- Obedience is rooted in honesty. This point is key to obedience. Obedience is not blind. Obedience relies on the honesty of all people involved. This really could have helped my situation with my pastor. If I had been honest with him—told him all of my concerns—he could’ve had the opportunity to be honest. He could’ve explained his reasoning. Even if he wasn’t swayed, I could have left knowing why.
- Obedience is the crazy idea that someone out there might be wiser than you. (Loosely stolen from a Chesterton quote—he always says it best). Sometimes I have to admit that someone could have better judgement than I. Example: I can be a little vain—I really don’t like how I look in glasses. If I had my way, I’d wear my contacts all the time. But it’s not healthy for my eyes (I almost lost sight in one eye, true story!). My husband often makes the call when I should take contacts out—and although I don’t want to take my contacts out, I trust that he has better judgement on that.
- We’re called to practice obedience with everyone. People seem to get worked up about obedience “situations: Obedience to church hierarchy, “Wives be subordinate to their husbands…” (Ephesians 5: 22-24), me, the youth minister, obedient to the pastor. But Christ called us to be servants to everyone (check out the washing of the feet: John 13:1-20). What does it mean to be a servant? A servant places the will of another above her own. St. Therese of Liesieux was struggling with a sister in her order. This bothered the crap out of St. Therese. Instead of confronting her or avoiding her (my M. O.), St. Therese served this sister. She acted out this sister’s every request with a joyful heart. Everyone thought St. Therese loved this sister more than the rest! In your upcoming week, sisters, keep an eye out for people like that annoying sister. They’re in need of your servant’s heart—so let’s practice a little obedience!