Q & A: Week One – Letting Go of the List

I want to begin by saying that I am FLABBERGASTED by and deeply grateful for the response to last Friday’s introductory post in this . . . shall we call it a series? I want to call it a conversation, one in which we can share questions, ideas, concerns, without ever doubting anyone else’s sincerity or questioning one another’s commitment to growing in grace. I also want to state very clearly (and undoubtedly, will do so again) that I do not pretend to have answers to All.The.Questions. I don’t think that is possible or, quite frankly, even desirable.

We are works in progress, designed by God to search and seek until we are found. I hope you will consider this space a safe one for exploration, wondering and discussion. And I’m pretty sure that those of you who are here are not interested in argument, in fact are exhausted by it. So. . . may this be a place for stories, for honest questions, for differing opinions . . . but not a place for theological arm-wrestling. We’re all pilgrims on the way, and it’s good to walk that way together, don’t you think? I have barely scratched the surface of this week’s topic, and I will be looking at it again in this conversation, I’m sure!

Next week’s question?

What’s with this ‘more of Jesus, less of me’ stuff?

DSC00474 Surf’s up! And the water looks great. So grab your board, find a trail down to the beach and let’s venture out into the deep, blue sea.

Safety first, however.

Remember that the ocean is vast, extends way beyond our view, is deeper than we can imagine and can sometimes prove treacherous. Even if we’re waiting right next to each other for a new set of waves, each of us will have our own experience.

We’ll use the same general skill set, grapple with similar pieces of equipment, and wave at one another when the next swell rises. But when we catch that ride, we’re on our own, finding our way back to the beach. DSC00492 We can share with one another helpful hints, scary stories, good (or bad) memories of past ventures out into the deep. And that’s a very good thing, that sharing. We can teach each other, learn together, experience the rolling of the water as a team. But what we cannot do is make assumptions or hold onto unrealistic expectations about any of it. We’re all finding our way. And by the grace of God, we’ll discover reservoirs of courage and grace we didn’t know were possible. 


So, bearing all that in mind, let’s push our way out into the deeper water for a while. 

Earlier this month, I wrote a one-word post for 2014, bemoaning the fact that the word I was given is NOT a favorite of mine. It’s a word that carries piles of negative freight, instills fear in the hearts of toddlers, and frustration in the minds of most adults. It flies in the face of what we believe is the highest value known to humanity: freedom

My 2014 word is this one: obedient.

I’ve wrestled with this word for most of my life, my rebellious heart resisting the very sound of it. Strangely enough, however, I have lived my life in an outwardly obedient way. I never did anything as a teenager that brought angst to my parents. Yes, I was outspoken, given to crying jags, and beginning to pull away from a wonderful but sometimes invasive mother. Still, I was a good girl.

A very good girl.

There was a problem with that, however, and it took me a long time to figure out what that problem was. Yes, I was obedient to the ‘rules,’ both written and unwritten. The rules of my family, my culture, my church environment. I was downright dutiful in many ways, helpful around the house, caring for my much-younger brother, getting good grades in school, not experimenting with anything. I learned to conform, to live up to the expectations of all kinds of others, and I worked hard to be pleasing, lovable, accepted. I had a clear picture of right and wrong in my mind and I toed the line conscientiously. Sometimes too conscientiously.

Yes, indeed, I was obedient.

But I don’t think I had a clue what that word meant. In fact, I’m still learning, unpeeling layers, redefining terms. I had internalized a long list of rules as a young kid, and that list just kept getting longer as I moved through high school and college. A few of those rules are part of my life today — I’ve learned that boundaries and limits can sometimes be gifts, giving shape to life, and hope in the midst of confusion.

But the problem with a too-long list of rules is that it can become like that many-headed water monster of old, the Hydra, the one that grew two heads for every one you cut off. Before you know it, you can find yourself gasping for air, the very life sucked out of you as you frantically try to contain all of life’s contingencies in their own secure, little boxes.

Here is just one, small example. Very personal to me, not necessarily applicable to you.

I began teaching Bible studies when I was 14 years old, immersing myself in devotional reading, prayer, journaling. And I kept teaching Bible studies, off and on, for the next fifty years. FIFTY YEARS. And I loved it. For one thing, it kept me ‘in the Word,’ which had been drilled into me as the most important rule of all, to be in that Word every day of my life. I am grateful for the depth of my own experience with scripture and I love it dearly.

But a funny thing happened when I retired from pastoring: I stopped doing daily devotional reading. And you want to know something even ‘funnier?’ I believe I was being obedient when I did so.

Okay. Now catch your breath, close your mouth and relax.

I still read the Bible. I still love the Bible. I even still study the Bible, though not as often as I once did.  But I know now, three years into this strange land called retirement, that daily reading had become a ‘list’ item for me, one that had to go, at least for a while. Why? To draw me deeper into the heart of God, that’s why. To teach me — again — that obedience is not about adhering to a list, not about earning my way to grace, not about proving myself worthy.

For hundreds of years, people followed Jesus with their whole hearts without ever — EVER — holding a Bible in their hands and reading from it by themselves. Sometimes we forget that truth. I do not mean to diminish the remarkable gift that is ours in this book we call holy — it is the very breath of God and a primary means of encountering God in this life. I am grateful for it every day of my life.

But following a reading plan, in obedience to some inner call to toe the line, be a good girl (or guy), to check those fifteen minutes off the list, to prove to myself, or heaven help me, to God, that I am worthy of love and grace? Not good. Yes! The discipline of reading the Word is important, especially in the earliest years of faith commitment. But doing it in response to an internalized list of rules does not necessarily lead us into God’s heart. 

And that’s where this word ‘obedience’ can get tricky, isn’t it? Obedience to what? To whom? To an ever-growing external or internal list of acceptable behaviors? Or does it look more like this: learning to listen to the voice of Love within, and to follow where Love leads.

This is where Jesus tells us we are to look, this is how we’re called to listen: to love God, and to love others as we love ourselves. Our dear Lord took the shining sword of his own sweet tongue and sliced through the multitudinous lists of the professional religious folk all around him when he said this: 

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” – Matthew 22:37-40, The Message

Now that is a very short list.

So this is how this small facet of obedience is unfolding in me at this juncture of my life, at this end of fifty years of immersing myself in the Word of God. Over those years, I memorized some good-sized chunks of God’s word. And much of it, I still remember. During these last three years of digging deep instead of spreading wide, I’ve been grateful for that memory work. Most days, I chew on phrases — sometimes just a single word! — from that memory bank, and I ponder them while I walk, focus on them when I sit in contemplative prayer. I think I spent about four weeks just holding the word ‘glory’ in my mouth and in my heart, amazed at all the ways in which I could see it shimmering all around me.

Being obedient to this strange new call has brought profound reminders of who I am and who God is. I am grateful that as I move into the next decade of my life, I am slowly re-learning that God calls us to relationship, not a head trip; to transformation, not information; to love, not lists.  

DSC00497 So, you over there, the one riding the board next to me? What is God teaching you about obedience these days? What further questions are being raised as you think about it, or as you read my thoughts? Share in the comments OR join your own blog post about this question by linking up below.

Next week’s question, for Friday, January 24th:
What’s with this ‘more of Jesus, less of me’ stuff?

And here, thanks to the hard work and creative genius of my friend Lyla Willingham Lindquist, is your choice of a button or two to put on your own blog as we walk through these Q & A times together:

Diana Trautwein - Living into the Answers
Diana Trautwein - Living the Questions

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  1. Yes. This speaks to me right where I am too, Diana. Relationship. I’m so bad to get accustomed to the list. To let it trip me up and make the relationship a stiff, less intimate one. This was the impetus for Playdates with God, did you know that? To mix things up, make my time with God different than the same old, same old. I am loving this series so far! Looking forward to following along in the inbox.

    • I sorta figured that was why you came up with that wonderful series, Laura. Mixing things up is very, very good. Thanks for being here, Laura.

  2. I tried explaining some of these ideas to some women in my church about a year or so ago, and I got some looks (and invited out to breakfast) which suggested I was being borderline heretical when I said there was no biblical commandment to observe a daily 15 minutes quiet time. You explained this relational dynamic so much better than I did.

    • I remember when a friend of mine did this many years ago and I (bless my heart!) felt it was a little suspect at the time. But she was able to help me see the need for it – to break away from performance mode, from ticking things of the list mode. I think this is a seasonal thing – and I also think there is value in doing some things as a discipline. But. . . we can so often make it about us, and earning points, instead of about actually sitting with God quietly. Thanks, Nancy for reading and for commenting.

  3. Ro elliott says

    For far too long…obidence was a grit your teeth…die to self…yielding to a task master kind of thinking….one day I was reading..GOD LOVES A CHEERFUL GiVER….…6Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;…
    Now this was mostly attached to money or some external action…but that day I saw…it was me…to give of myself cheerfully..and I get to choose…so I give myself sparingly…than maybe I deny myself the abundance God has for me…I give my self bountifully…do I open wider the channels in my heart for all His abounding grace.?
    I can hear in my mind the cheerful children’s version of God loves a cheerful giver…but this is no soft and fluffy place…it sometimes is the hard wrestle to give ourself to a loving Heavenly Father …rather than begrudgly to a task master.
    And yes..yes…it all grows out of a growing relationship of love
    Thanks Diane…I look forward to this series

    • YUP. It’s not about gritting our teeth, is it? And if we feel that way, then it’s time to come clean, open our clenched fists, relax our jaws and lean in. And it is often a hard wrestle, too. Thanks so much, Ro, for your insightful comment.

  4. Ohhhhhhhhh, Diana, this SO resonates. Two things–I wrote a post this past summer which was a guest post for (in)courage. It was about God being awake at all times of the day just like the people at Starbuck’s. Where did I get this idea that I had to be in the word first thing in the morning? Or every day for a certain amount of time? That’s a good idea, maybe, but not necessarily a God idea and has been a trap for a long time. I’ve felt like backing off from regular Bible reading lately, too, in a funny sort of way because IT IS MY LIFE, my breath, my daily food etc. but I’m approaching God in a different way and I couldn’t exactly explain how or why as you have so beautifully done.
    Monday I start with the Hide his Word online community to memorize Isaiah 55. We’re gonna camp there for 13 weeks–one verse a week. I’m terrible at memorizing things by rote, but have found when I spend time there because I WANT to and ask Jesus to speak to me it just gets in deeper.
    I read this yesterday on their FB page and thought, ‘yes!’
    “Don’t think of memorizing passages as something to do but rather Someone worthy to pursue….Take baby steps if you’re cautious. Take giant steps if you dare. Either way, take hold of God’s Word and let God’s Word take hold of you.”
    – Janet Pope, ‘His Word in My Heart’

    Thanks for asking……..and I’m not flabbergasted by this at all. Not at all. 🙂

    • Well, here it is, Jody. I get the comments in my inbox, and usually it asks me to approve some of them. I thought I had done so, but so far yours hasn’t made it to the blog. I’ll try responding in the comments behind the scenes and see if that helps. I LOVE this response, kiddo. And there are times in our lives when I believe God asks us to mix it up – to try a different way of relating to him. It does not mean we love the Word or certain kinds of prayer any less, it just means that God has more to teach us. Many, many blessings on the memory project. It sounds like a sane, low-key way to do it and that is just terrific. Love the quote, too. SO glad you’re not flabbergasted. :>)

  5. “…memorized some good-sized chunks… been grateful for that memory work. Most days, I chew on phrases…from that memory bank, and I ponder them….”

    SUPER example you gave, Diana, and especially “been grateful for that” because we all have stuff that, in retrospect, we wish we had gone about a little differently – our approach to God’s Word, our approach to prayer, to ministry, to paths taken. But the marvelous thing is that God takes even these things done not in the purest motives and uses them still to bless us (and others, I think). Even the missteps put us in places, expose us to people/opportunities and sharpen skills that are useful for His purposes. It’s incredible!

    • Amen! Grace is a wonderful thing, covering our blunders and working through us in spite of ourselves. Thanks for reading along and always encouraging, Marilyn. Love to see your face here.

  6. This fall my husband and I joined a couples Bible study. New group–new list. One of their things was praying together, which John and I have resisted for years, often with good reason. Then one bad night in November, we did it. We’ve kept doing it because our situation continues to be dire. But we didn’t want to tell the group. We knew they’d think we were all super-spiritual. It finally came out, and we both said, “There’s absolutely no way we’d be doing this if we weren’t completely desperate.” And honestly, I like to think there’s a day coming–though I don’t believe it–when we’d forget to pray together. Because that would mean we no longer felt the crushing need.

    P.S. I love this surfer analogy–keep it up!

    • What a great story, Megan. I only wish it weren’t built upon your own deep sorrow. And I continue to pray with you and for you that the crushing need will ease up. Please God!! (Don’t know how long I can keep up that surfing analogy, but it’s been grand fun to do thus far. If only I WERE a surfer, it might be easier. But somewhere in last week’s thread, there was a real one. . . so I might go to her for help and encouragement!)

  7. Diana, thank you for sharing this! I’ve started reading just short bits of scripture for now, too. By dwelling on God’s care for me, I’m hoping to break the habit of using the Bible as sand paper on my soul. :/

    • Thanks so much for LINKING UP. You’re the first, did you know that? I just got a notification of a 2nd, but don’t see it here yet. Love that phrase, ‘using the Bible as sandpaper on my soul!”

  8. REAL ationship – yes. Starting with real. Real before Him, real with myself, real with those around me. This is the only way we can truly love.

    Not about rules or schedule, as you so well expressed. But about His.

  9. I’m looking forward to linking up next week. I’ll be marinating on this question. See ya back here, soon.

    • Great, Tammy. I look forward to your thinking/writing next week. By the way – any of these topics/questions can be responded to at any point along this journey we’re taking together. There will be a new one each week, but you can go back to earlier ones at any point. I will, I’m sure.

  10. Martha Hupp says

    I established my relationship with Jesus when I was 30 and in the last 25 years have performed the perfunctory “check the blocks on the church bulletin insert Reading Through the Bible in a Year” once during that time. Interestingly, I felt impressed–no, actually drawn–to read through the Bible in 2014. I found a Bible plan that doesn’t jump here and there, but rather allows me to finish a book before moving to another book. I actually look forward to crawling into my chair each morning and curling up to see what the Holy Spirit has to show me. Like you focused on the word “glory” for weeks, I find my mind each day going back to the stillness of the morning and what He pointed out in His Word earlier in the day. The difference between my perfunctory performance early in my spiritual walk and my desire to be drawn closer to Him in 2014? Joyful Obedience. Unshackle the chains of legalism and listen to His voice in His Word, in His creation of us, His children, and in His Universe-which is full of His glory! Diana, if this post is the first fruits, I look forward to a bountiful learning experience!

    • Responding to that being-drawn-feeling – that’s at the heart of real obedience, I think. Leaning into this new reading pattern because you hear God whispering over your shoulder, “This is the way, walk you in it” is wonderful. “Unshackle the chains of legalism and listen to his voice. . . ” YES and thank you, Martha.

  11. I’m so grateful that God meets us where we are. I grew up going to church and Sunday school. I have an old hymnal that was given to me after I’d memorized a certain number of hymns, and I had a white Bible with a zippered closure and my name embossed in gold letters on the front. But except for the Ten Commandments, the 23rd Psalm and the Lord’s Prayer, I knew little else about what was inside the cover. I don’t remember hearing the Bible read {not even in church or Sunday School} or being encouraged to read it for myself. We called ourselves Christians, but I was married before I ever saw my parents read the Bible. I have no memory of them praying with me, or offering me biblical counsel. I was nearly 30 when I surrendered my life to Christ and began to grow in my relationship with Him and knowledge of His will, His plans and His purposes through Scripture. Growing up, I had very few rules. I was not a rebellious child or teenager, and my parents were too distracted by my brother’s rebelliousness to provide boundaries for me. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that obedience to the boundaries {commands} God has established are for my good. Growing up without those boundaries, I wandered right into both physical and spiritual dangerous territory. For me, obedience isn’t following a list of rules, but living within the boundaries God spells out in Scripture because they are for my good and His glory.

    • Amen, and amen, Patricia. God does meet us where we are. And your story is almost diametrically opposed (not the right word, but you know what I mean) to my own. And yes! Obedience to the boundaries (I think I alluded to that earlier in the post), when done because we know this is good and right and helpful for our own growth (not because we’re trying to earn Brownie points anywhere) – This is a good thing. Very good. Thanks so much for jumping into our collaborative conversation, Patricia. You know I love to see you!

  12. Ok, here goes – this is my (probably) blog-post sized comment.
    Obedience. Just the word makes me feel like I’ve been rubbed all over by stinging nettle! In my mind it’s always linked to me being in the wrong, according to some authority figure, and it’s always linked to the word ‘having’. As in ‘having to stop doing something I want to do’ or ‘having to start doing something I don’t want to do’ which basically amounts to having to not do what I want. Which concentrates down a bit further to what I want to do is wrong, according to ‘them’. Take it a bit further, and if what I want to do is so often wrong, then ‘I’ must be wrong.
    All my life I have felt I have to fight for the right to be me – that there is always someone trying to make me be someone I’m not, because who I am/what I want doesn’t fit the box they want me to live in.
    As you can imagine, learning to trust God has been/is a big struggle. Trying to believe that He loves me the way I am (the way He made me!) is hard work.
    When I am told I need to be obedient to God I have to go back to the beginning, and remind myself that He loves me, that He made me the way I am on purpose, that He is kind and safe and I can trust Him… and only then will my hackles go down. Sometimes. Sometimes they don’t – I’m very comfortable with being called a rebel!
    So yeah… obedience is a tricky word for me.
    As for bible study? I love studying the bible, but I do it my way, at my speed. Which is slow! I like to mull over it, chew over the words and meanings, look things up, ask questions, think, ponder, pray… and then mull some more! I get irritated when I HAVE to read a certain amount by a certain time, when I really just want to stop and think about a verse for a week or so. I can totally relate to what you said about sitting with the word ‘glory’ for a few weeks!

    • Oh, thank you, Donna, for this contribution to our conversation here. And I get this response, I do. Sometimes when we come from a hyper-conservative background and then begin to realize that there is so.much.more to God and grace and life, those hackles come up, almost like a form of PTSD, I think. I’m so glad you’re learning ways to center yourself in God’s love – and you’re right – it is hard to do. It’s a life-long lesson, that’s what it is. And it sounds like you’re doing a fine job of ‘chewing’ on the word, which is what the word ‘meditate’ means. I’m grateful for your participation, your encouragement – for you!

    • Donna,
      Interesting that you would speak of being called a rebel.
      I feel comfortable with the name as well, although I seemed to have earned it because of listening and obeying 😉 Not to the world, or rules, but to His voice alone

      • Interesting point, Karin. Somehow – maybe by coming to Jesus later in life? – you missed the ‘rule list’ that so many of us cradle Christians grew up internalizing. And you learned early on to listen first to the voice of God as you found you way to partnership with him.

        • Diana, I think you’ve scored a direct hit.
          I believe I was reborn into freedom not legalism
          perhpas already too old in my spiritual infancy to be shackled.

          • I wish my commenting system had a ‘like’ button, because I like this response a lot. To be ‘reborn into freedom, not legalism’ is a great gift. I’m grateful with you that this is your story.

  13. I am enjoying this dialogue and the views, intentions shared in the comments. I’m so glad that being a follower and endeavoring to be obedient is not a “one-size-fits-all” kind of thing. And I’m so grateful for grace.

    Questions are good. And I’m reminded of something I heard recently: ask God to help you to ask the right questions. I am still pondering what that really means. But I know that it makes me want to circle back here and learn more about Q&A. Thanks.

    • LOVE that asking God for the right questions thing – great way to put it. Thanks so much. Our senior pastor has made a life study of the questions in scripture – especially the questions coming from God. Try that some time — it’s pretty amazing. How else do we learn unless we ask questions?

  14. Diana, I won’t have a blog post up for a while, but your post has me thinking about the question “Why? Why am I doing X?” Why do devotional reading? As you said, early in one’s faith a discipline that builds in exposure to the written words of Scripture can provide important grounding, but it’s not the first or second greatest commandment. It might be a means to an end–perhaps my obedience to God in loving Him is to learn what He said about something or how He led His people at a particular time. Anyway, I love that you are asking and exploring what was behind the habit/discipline of devotional reading and getting to the heart of what matters most: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength…and love your neighbor as yourself.

    • Somehow, my comments monitor double posted my response to Sue in your box, Ann. Sorry about that! You know what? You’re response is exactly what I think we all need to do/say – let’s think about this a little more deeply. Questions often lead to more questions before any answers show up, you know? Thanks for responding here, and if your very busy calendar ever allows for a blog post on any of these topics – or questions of your own – then link away! Thanks so much for following along.

  15. In Anne Graham Lotz’ Bible study guide, Into the Word (Zondervan, 2010), she made an astounding confession. Sometimes she has days of non-stop responsibilities and misses spending even a few moments with God. But instead of allowing guilt to consume her, however, she strives to spend one extended time in the Word each week. She says it’s like setting her spiritual compass, refocusing on Jesus. I have to admit I was shocked! A mature, highly respected Christian like Anne doesn’t have a quiet time each day? But my next emotion was relief. If someone of her spiritual stature did not regiment her quiet time, I didn’t need to either! If I miss a day, my loving Heavenly Father will understand. He is not a strict taskmaster.

    You, too, Diana, are a mature Christian, who has developed considerable spiritual stature. I SO appreciate your honesty and wisdom. One sentence of this post I want to hold on to in particular: “God calls us to love, not lists.” That would include to-do lists that demand daily, early morning Bible reading.

    • Thank you, Nancy for your kind words – ‘spiritual stature?’ I don’t know about that. Age, experience, time? Yeah, that. I’m with Anne here – though I think it can apply in a variety of settings, not just over-the-top busy seasons of life. And the phrase that you say sticks to you today? That’s one I want to hold onto to. Just like preaching, what I write here is for me, first and foremost.

  16. Wow, Diana, look at the conversation you’ve started. 🙂
    And, it would seem that I’ve written a small book on “obedience.” I’m not sure WHY that happened, but I went ahead and pushed publish anyway. Thanks for opening the topic and your space here.

    • Oh, honey. Your ‘small book’ is simply gorgeous. And helpful. And thoughtful. And real. And right on target. Thank you so very much.

  17. I’ve wrestled with this for what seems my whole life Diana. I can identify with so much of what you’ve written about yourself. I don’t know why it’s so difficult to shake that “works” mentality. Perhaps it is the endless striving to be the “good girl.”
    Our music minister challenged us to a New Year’s Resolution: Listen to what God tells you and then do it. It’s what I’ve been slowly coming to for the past few years. I am so weary of trying to tick off all the perceived duties. No matter how hard I tried, I so often failed.
    I find myself just longing to love Him well; to love Him so much I easily recognize His voice and out of love do what He asks. I am sometimes surprised to find that the duties on my list have nothing to do with what He asks – to love Him and to love others. Such peace.

    • Yeah, that ‘good girl’ thing is a killer, isn’t it? And your music minister sounds like a very wise man – and double-checking your list (now where have I heard that recently?? Oh, yeah, jolly old St. Nick from last month’s craziness!) — that’s a great thing to do actually. Where do those things that weigh on me as ‘oughts’ and ‘shoulds’ fit with the two greatest commandments? Thanks so much for joining the conversation, Linda. I am always grateful for your voice.

  18. Jim and Judy Halvorsen says

    First, we want to thank Diana for her creative idea to have a weekly conversation on topics of importance. Opportunities for extended civil, non-argumentative conversation on important topics have been rare in our experience and we are both hopeful and optimistic about this.

    Our conversation around this topic has been somewhat different from the comments listed up to this point. It centers around the thought of obedient to what or whom.

    It seems to us that human experience begins with expected obedience to parents rather than to any thought of categories of ‘obedient to what’. Someone is in charge and someone obeys. The goal of good parenting includes transitioning the child from ‘Because I said so’ to understanding what is best for the abundant life Christ came to bring.

    We propose that all of us are drawn toward four possible perspectives.
    1. Controlling others which can lead to dictating.
    2. Obeying others which can lead to sheeplike following.
    3. Taking a nonchalant position that nothing matters. (Whatever)
    4. A belief in equality in which everyone matters and no one rules.
    We believe that the fourth is the only acceptable stance.

    Most dictators don’t dictate countries but rather intimate personal relationships. We recently read from Philip Yancey that the opposite of faith for most of us may be control more than doubt. The reasons for this are many and include having been controlled unreasonably by others and deciding that we would rather control than be controlled. Time for others to be ‘obedient’ to me.

    Obeying seemed most ‘Christlike’ to us. ‘Like a sheep before his shearers is dumb, so He opened not his mouth’. But before Christ ‘laid down’ He stood up. He didn’t knock down but merely stood up. Dictators would rather have a fight than mere non-compliance. If we don’t fight back, we might ‘look better than them’, perish the thought. It is appropriate that we are writing this on the Martin Luther King holiday.

    Some, so tired of the fuss, pretend that nothing really matters. But we believe that these things matter deeply and are at the crossroads between war and peace. Even though we hide our heads in the sand, when we come up for air and sight, they are still there.

    Many have given up on conversations such as Diana hopes for us here but it really is the only option we know. Help us if you see something else. It requires as she stated that we don’t argue but bring our experience and ideas to the table to be considered, discussed, and our understanding deepened. We must resist the passive-aggressive and isolationist impulses and commit ourselves to loving each other by listening and contributing.
    Reject knocking each other down – aggressive behavior.
    Resist lying down to become sheepskin rugs – passive behavior.
    Resist pretending as if nothing matters – escapism.
    Commit to listening and learning from each other – morality.

    So our goal, and it is an ‘easy yoke’ is this.
    Obedience to what is good, beautiful, and true.
    Obedience to that which brings abundant life.
    Obedience to the way, the truth and the life.
    Obedience to the one who is the way, the truth and the life.

    Thank you Diana for opening up this opportunity.

    • YES, YES, YES! Thank you so, so much for this grace-filled and generous piece of writing, J & J. Wonderfully analytical without being impersonal – how do you do that? I am deeply grateful for your encouragement to me in this space and all over Facebook since I started this venture at retirement. And what a gift to see such a well thought-out response to this week’s query. Thank you!

  19. Obedience, I wrote several weeks ago, is a “beautiful surrender.” I surrendered a dream in obedience. I expected grief but instead I was filled (really and truly) filled with peace. Obedience that brings anything other than peace really isn’t the pure obedience that Christ desires for his beloved. I am sorry I haven’t read the whole conversation that came before me. So thankful for your insights, your journey and wisdom. Thank you for opening up the conversation. I hope life will let me link in the weeks to come.

    • Sometimes surrender is indeed the answer, especially if it is done in a relationship that is based on and bounded by love and not obligation. So that strong sentence of yours that begins with the word ‘obedience’ is right on target. Thanks for these good thoughts, Dea. I hope life will let you link up, too.

  20. All so encouraging! It takes a lot of living in love to let go of the lists, especially when list making started in childhood. I still can see the parade of objects across the pulpit that were on the forbidden list. I risk disapproval by mentioning a book so widely read, that I felt was yet another list for the good Christian. “The Purpose DRIVEN Life” left me exhausted and feeling the weight of failure. Living in Love, now that lifts my spirit, puts joy in my heart and the desire to go and do!!

    Embracing obedience to see ourselves as loved, forgiven and set free is one of the hardest things to “obey” for some of us.

    Thank you Diana for gathering your tribe. What a family!!

    • Indeed, it does take a lot of living, Gwen. One of the (few!) plusses of getting older, I think. That book was really helpful for a whole lot of people and Pastor Rick is a good man. But for some, it can come across as yet another addition to the guilt pile. If that’s true for you, just set it aside and move on! Different strokes for different folks, as they say.