Obedience is a dance learned one step at a time, with faltering step perhaps. The pace may be halting, unfamiliar and clumsy. Our souls and hearts will stretch. There will be pain – ask any dancer. But the stretching will leave our souls and hearts with a new breadth, and encompassed in the arms of the God who loves us, we will know the freedom of the dance. – Cynthia Stebbins
I was never a great rule follower. Despite my narcissistic tendency for self-analysis, I still can’t figure out why I was such a limit-tester growing up. I once got a dress-code detention for “failure to wear socks after repeated warnings”. What was wrong with me?
The biggest work of my life so far has been developing self-discipline. If I can’t observe the limits set by others then I have to come up with limits on my own. Many of the laws and limits imposed on us have the wisdom of millenia behind them. Learning to trust that I have been asked to obey because others want what’s best for me has been a journey of halting steps.
Obedience can be a dirty word, and indeed it can do great damage. When we obey the wrong voices – of oppressors or abusers, of those who don’t have our best interests at heart, of the media and Madison Avenue, even of our own selfishness and fear – we put ourselves in great danger. I want desperately to believe that every human heart, no matter how tortured or depraved, is capable of discerning the voices that lead not to destruction, but to life.
The arduous process of formation involves allowing the law to be written on our hearts. The slow inscribing of love onto our hearts often comes at a cost: of time, vulnerability, humbling. I trust that there is someone better than me who is running the universe, and that it is my responsibility to tune my heart to that same frequency. Learning to align all the voices in my soul with the voice of God involves pushing myself through discomfort and selfishness into reality.
On the rare occasions that I clear away enough clutter to encounter the reality of God’s good intentions for me, obedience has become not a burden but a blessing. Even though I’m no longer doing what I want – or thought I wanted – I am subsumed in the Reign of God and am subsequently freed by it. As far as I’m concerned, learning the dance of pure and purposeful obedience is our most important task, and the task from which our other labors can spring.