“Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart.”
Obedience gets a bad rap. It’s one of those words that denotes a connotation of restriction rather than release. We, so often, misunderstand and misapply it to our lives. God knows, I certainly have.
My skin used to, literally, crawl when I heard words like “submission” and “obedience” and “surrender”. My mind would invent images of a cowering woman in a corner somewhere, beneath the shaking fist of a tyrant husband or deity. It’s an ugly image and one that will inspire fear instead of freedom. And honestly, fear leads to failure.
I love how the psalmist, David, gives us the proper order of things in very simple terms. Give me understanding so that I can obey with all my heart. I find this beautifully refreshing because it reminds me that understanding takes time and intention.
Jesus also echoed this perspective in Matthew 22:34-40. Love God first, then love your neighbor and everything else will follow. The abundant life, kingdom-focused, God-first life is not dependent on our behavior but on our posture.
Imagine, for a moment, that the love of God is a sturdy beam of wood anchored in the deepest foundation. Once we place ourselves and our love of others, deep into the beam, like a nail, we can hang anything on it.
Messy and complicated marriage? It will hold the weight.
Rebellious child? It will hold the weight.
The pain of loss and heartbreak? It will hold the weight.
The critical component is the placement of the nail in the beam.
Put that same nail in shallow drywall and it will collapse and crash to the ground with the lightest of burden. It will not hold. The key is its position… its placement.
Websters defines obedience as the quality or state of being submissive to the restraint or command of authority. This too, requires proper position.
All too often, we allow ourselves to be convinced that a good Christian is made up of his or her actions and words-good, bad or ugly. It’s true that these things stem from the heart, but our hearts can be deceitful. I was trapped in this mindset for years. I went to church, I sang the songs, I dressed the part and I played the role well. But it wasn’t until I sought out a real and lasting relationship with Jesus and positioned myself in a posture of pursuit that I got it.
Jason and I had a long conversation just a few nights ago about this same topic. The simplest way we could break it down was to compare it to our own relationship. You see, when we started dating, like most people, we did everything we could to spend time together. We shared meals, went on dates and talked for hours about everything under the sun. We became students of one another and as a result we experienced love so great that we wanted it to last forever. We were desperate for each other’s presence. We craved the time and attention of the other and wanted nothing more than to lavish ours on them.
Somewhere along the line we got distracted. We began to struggle. We stopped trying so hard. We settled into adjacent-living, sharing the same space, but rarely the same heart. We let work, parenting, finances, our families and our own selfishness creep in. As you might imagine, things fell apart. We had hammered all of our nails into the flimsiest of surfaces.
Then, two and a half years ago, as we met to go over the final details of our divorce and sign our papers, we discovered that we were both seated in the same gut-wrenching position. Neither of us wanted to quit. Neither of us wanted to live without the other. Neither of us was ready to let go. So, we once again positioned ourselves, very intentionally, in the life of the other. We took a long, hard, look at the kingdom we had built for ourselves and found that most of it was meaningless. It wasn’t easy. There was a lot of painful junk to sort through. We both had to forgive the other for hurts that ran deep. But we refused to give up. And as we sorted through what was left of our crumbled home, we discovered that there was something worth actually building if we would just take the time and position ourselves to do it together.
I had to learn to trust my husband. With EVERYTHING. That meant spending time with him, intentionally, and giving him the authority to make decisions that he was designed best to make. That process was born out of sheer obedience to God. It was not an easy one for me. I am incredibly strong-willed and stubborn. In fact, I’m almost positive that the first words I ever spoke were I can do it by myself when, in all honesty, I can’t because we were never designed to go through life alone.
The only way I knew to power through this challenging season was to make the main thing, the main thing. There were still times when I would search for scripture that I could use to make my argument or prove my point, whenever I didn’t like something; but every time I did, I settled on the same things-LOVE GOD. LOVE OTHERS. Everything else will follow.
So that is exactly what I did. I set myself in a posture of pursuit. I had a long way to go, but I was going to chase the cross as long as it took to get there. I placed my messy, broken heart at the feet of Jesus and refused to move. I realized, pretty quickly, that it wasn’t a question of whether or not God was faithful, but whether or not I would be obedient to those simple requirements-LOVE GOD. LOVE OTHERS. The more obedient I was to those great commandments, the more God demonstrated His faithfulness in my life and my home.
It’s an ongoing process of surrender, but I now know this for sure: as long as I maintain my posture of pursuing a tender, honest, and genuine relationship with Jesus, I have nothing left to fear and will not fail. As I open my heart, expose my true self and soak up the presence of the King of the Kings, I find all the joy, all the security, all the love and all the wisdom I will ever need.
As I sat, last night, hand-in-hand with Jason at the first service of a new church plant that we are humbled and honored to be part of, I couldn’t help but feel the tug of the Spirit reminding me of where we had once been. God has been faithful to us, even in our most broken spaces. He has restored us, renewed us, rebuilt us and released us to share our story with others. And all of that because we anchored our nails in the right position. All because we made the choice to be obedient to loving God and loving others.
It doesn’t get much better than that.