The past several months I have been learning new some things about obedience. I always thought that obedience meant you not only had to obey but you had to do it with the right attitude. Granted, that would be the ideal scenario. Yes, the truth is that we SHOULD obey and we SHOULD have a good attitude about it. So does that mean if you obey but your attitude isn’t right, then you haven’t truly obeyed? I bet there are different opinions out there about it.
The Bible character that I think of most often when I hear the word obedience is Abraham. He obeyed a number of things and these weren’t little things. He obeyed packing up his family and moving to a land he knew nothing about. He obeyed when God told him to sacrifice his son (thankfully God came through and provided a ram instead). I could go on. The point is that we read about all of these ways that Abraham obeyed and we wish we could be like him.
I started realizing something, though. The Bible provides the background information. It doesn’t go into the feelings and emotions that were evoked in Abraham. I think it’s important that we don’t forget he was a real person with real emotions. He wasn’t a robot. It’s not like he obeyed and didn’t have feelings behind it. Can you imagine the turmoil within him that he experienced when God asked him to sacrifice his son? Do you not think he questioned what God was doing? We don’t know for sure, obviously. I tend to lean more toward the likelihood that he was not exactly thrilled about the idea. Would you be?
Last summer our family found ourselves in a position where everything about our lives was going to drastically change. We became foster parents to two young children. It was not something I had sought. It was not something I wanted. I could write an entire book on just that experience alone.
It was one of the toughest things our family has ever gone through. It affected our lives in so many ways and I found myself obeying but with my heels digging in. Once the experience was over and the children were returned home, I felt a sense of relief that it was over with but I battled guilt for many months. All I could think about was that I went through that experience with the wrong attitude.
God began to show me that all He asked of me was that I obey. He didn’t say anything about liking it. He didn’t ask me to like it or to want it. The point was that He asked us to obey and we did it. It has taken several months for that to really sink in.
Well, this past Thursday we had our ex-foster children over for a few hours. They hadn’t been back in our home for many months. My children were thrilled to spend time with them. At one point the little girl came and sat on my lap. I held her and a feeling of regret washed over me. I started berating myself about my attitude again. Why wasn’t I able to truly enjoy that experience instead of just barely surviving it? At the time it seemed like they were with us forever but when I thought about it, they had only been with us a few short months. Could I not have handled a few short months of inconvenience without having a negative attitude? Guilt was coming upon me again. But then God reminded me that all He asked of me was that I obey. I did what He asked. Hmm…so maybe I am more like Abraham after all? I don’t know. One day I hope to ask Abraham about the feelings, thoughts and attitudes he had when God asked all those things of him. Until then I know that obedience is really just that. It is obeying.
Sometimes the “right” feelings won’t be there. They may take time to follow the act of obedience. The point is that we obey. Our heels might be digging in and we may not like it but in the end all we need to do is obey. God can then work on the other areas that need change. Obey what I command you today (Exodus 34:11).