Q & A: Tuesday Wrap-Up, Week One


DSC00504 Oh, my! Such rich and wonderful depths to this conversation. My heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you who is reading along as we continue this experiment of pushing out, ever-so-gently, into the deeper waters that we wonder about as we live out this life of faith. And special thanks to each one who commented and/or who linked up some longer reflections from their own blogsite. I am grateful for each one of you, and grateful for the time and thought that went into your contributions here.

We have barely begun to scratch the surface of this topic, this thing we call obedience, but we’re enjoying the beauty of a shared ride along the crest of a wave, with thumbs up all round. I read every word you wrote, and these are the things that rise to the top as I reflect on what you’ve shared.

Almost everyone has had a difficult relationship with the idea and even with the practice of obedience, especially when it was taught in the context of conformity and obligation. (One of the links had this great line: “Goodness, obedience, when looked at through the lens of conformity is a dangerous thing.”) Several different writers mentioned the weight of being the ‘good girl,’ or the ‘good boy,’ and the pressure that rises as we try to make sure everyone is pleased with us, that we’re living up to expectations, that we’re earning performance points.

There was also, however, the recognition that if we re-define the term, if we look at it prayerfully and intuitively, the emotions surrounding the word change. Finding our way to a healthy, clear definition seemed to be high on the list; it feels important to us to think through what we mean when we talk about being obedient people.

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I loved that the story of Rahab came up in one of the linked posts, and also the reflection on civil disobedience, which was linked near the end of our celebration of MLK day yesterday. Rahab and Martin Luther King, Jr., each push us to ask good, hard questions about what we mean when we say we are obedient people. Obedient to whom? To what? for what purpose?

Rahab broke one of the 10 commandments, didn’t she? She lied, she bore false witness. But most of us resonate with her choice. Why? 

MLK encouraged black Americans, and any white Americans who felt called to join them, to disobey unfair laws and to step right into the middle of the mess by standing tall for the right, the good and the just. He looked the rules in the face and said, ‘NO. No, I will not be obedient to injustice.’

They each broke the ‘rules.’ And in the process, they rid themselves of the shackles of one set of culturally imposed values for another set entirely, a higher one. Rahab lied to save lives; MLK and all who followed him landed in jail, got beaten, endured insults, for what? Because they recognized a higher authority, the authority of justice, and they stood up for it. Which is something one of the commenters at the post talked about, too: that Jesus ‘stood up’ when treated unfairly – I loved this line: “But before Christ ‘laid down’ He stood up. He didn’t knock down but merely stood up.”

Sometimes obedience looks like standing up, breaking rules, speaking truth to power. And sometimes obedience looks like holding our tongues, being gentle and gracious, leaning into the difficulties in which we live. This line hit me hard and reminded me that sometimes, brokenness takes time to mend: “I think my obedience this year involves a willingness to receive God’s comfort in the emotionally decimated parts of myself.”

Yes, yes! Opening ourselves to the comforting love of God is an act of obedience, one that too many of us deny ourselves, believing that to be comforted and loved, we must somehow earn those things. We must do All.The.Things, the important, obedient things, and then maybe God will be there for us.

But how can we ever learn to love God — as the scriptures teach us — with ALL of who we are, if we don’t allow God’s love for us to fill and comfort and change us? Before we can love well, we need to know what being loved is like. Almost always that means learning to listen. To listen to that still, small voice that whispers hope, invitation, confidence, and love to our hearts. 

“I attempted to be faithful in prayer
yet never fit the pattern
of warriors and intercessors
who tried to school me
no list of requests for me
instead I simply seek His presence
abide, wait, respond
He said

when you’re breathing you’re praying

so I relax into that.”

 More than one person mentioned the importance of having trusted others in our life, those who love the Lord and who also love us. “Experience has taught me: those who have my best interest at heart will encourage me to seek His face, not try to tell me what His face looks like.”   I think that is a central part of what it means to be in community with one another — that we encourage each other to seek the face of Christ AND that we recognize that each of us will be given a slightly different angle from which to view that face.

Over and around and above all of the difficulties, the misunderstandings, the limits of our human vocabulary, there shines this powerful truth: God is bigger than the rules. And God will never leave us to fend for ourselves, even though it sometimes feels like that is exactly what is happening! “No matter what circumstances I encounter, no matter what insurmountable obstacles appear to be in my way; and no matter, even, the dumb things I do–Christ will not relent. He will not stop. I can rest in knowing Christ remains steadfast in being for me. He continues marching forward, working all things toward his purpose and for my good.”

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We’re riding this wave well, friends. I see you ‘listening’ to one another, with comments and links, with cross-comments and follow-up words. We’re in this together, and we’re learning as we go. Thank you, thank you.

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On Friday, we’ll jump into a famous phrase that has so many levels of both difficulty and beauty, we may be surprised at what will rise to the surface. What’s with this ‘more of Jesus, less of me’ stuff? I’m mulling this one over. And over. I look forward to posting my own ‘living the question’ and some of my ‘living into the answer’ musings at the end of the week. The link will be open through the weekend.

Please take a button for you own blog from one (or both) of the ones Lyla has so beautifully tucked into the side bar here. 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Diana, you have created such a deep, safe sharing space here.
    I pray that we continue to come with hearts open and hands outstretched,
    to give and to receive

  2. Thank you, Diana.

  3. I like the idea of a wrap-up, pulling together some of the thoughts that resonated. Thank you.

  4. “I attempted to be faithful in prayer.. . . . . seek His presence . . . . abide, wait, respond”
    .”
    I love the above quote from “his Firefly” because i just finished reading an exhausting post about a new plan for the year, involving prayer, and Bible reading, schedules and list. I felt sad reading it. How refreshing to read this.
    Am with my brother’s family in MOntana, it has been relaxing and restful, but han’t been able to keep up woti all the other posts. My dear husband has been t aking care of my dad…going home tomorrwo.
    I love what you are doing here.
    carol hi

    when you’re breathing you’re praying

    so I relax into that.”

    • Amen – I so loved that piece from Karin! The piles of expectations, complications, responsibilities, have-to’s, must-do’s sometimes feel endless. It is good to relax into lots of things! I don’t want to put-down honest, loving memory work, Bible studies, or prayer sessions. Not at all. I do want to say that care must be taken to be sure that we do these things out of love and commitment rather than obligation. There’s a difference between commitment and obligation – at least in my mind – and it’s an important one. The basis for one is love; the basis for the other is too often fear.

  5. Diana, you’ve created a safe place, as Karin mentioned above, but also a virtual water cooler conversation (or coffee shop and croissants) that is sooooo refreshing.
    My brother the surfer mentioned an unwritten rule that surfers have—“keep your eyes on each other when you’re out there and give everyone enough space to ride their own wave. (in other words, don’t take all the best ones for yourself–learn to share.) And if someone’s in trouble, wait until they pop back up to the surface just to make sure they’re okay.” Sometimes we jump in too soon when someone is ‘drowning’ and they miss the opportunity to find out how strong they can be when they lean on Jesus. (spoken from experience–he took a 12 foot wave while on vacation in November and did nearly drown…….thank God for a buoyant board and an ankle leash. When he reached the surface and got back on his board he looked out on the horizon and got a thumbs up from a fellow surfer who’d had his eye on him.)
    I love that analogy.

    • Jody – that is the perfect story for this place. Thank you so much. And thanks for your continuing encouragement as we ride through the water together!

  6. Oh, boy–so many wonderful nuggets here to collect and study! Thank you, Diana. One example: “Sometimes obedience looks like holding our tongues, being gentle and gracious, leaning into the difficulties in which we live.” Reminds me of a conversation this week with a person who knows about Jesus, but I don’t think she has a relationship with him. I prayed before our get-together, that God would guide the conversation and give me the words to say. Afterwards I wondered if I had said enough. Should I have been more pointed? As I read this statement about being gentle and gracious, I sensed the Holy Spirit saying, “That’s what M. needs right now.” (If I’m wrong about that, may God clearly direct a different course of action!)

    Love that sentence: “When you’re breathing, you’re praying.” Every thought can be turned to prayer and praise, keeping us in the midst of God’s presence. Surely obedience will come more naturally from such a place! Oh, Lord, continue to guide me toward practicing your presence every moment.

    • Thanks for joining the conversation, Nancy. And yes, I think that those who are searching need gentleness much more often than confrontation. Thanks for your good words here.

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