"Sweetheart," I said one day to my dark-eyed three-year-old, "It is too cold for shorts, you need to change and put on pants."
"These are pants." She replied without missing a beat.
My brow furrowed, "Um...no...no they're not. Those are shorts."
"No. They are pants." She calmly insisted.
How do you argue with someone who is blatantly denying a physical, obvious fact? I'm sure Harvard Law students know the trick, and I know I've heard politicians do it, but at this moment, I had no idea what to say to my tot who was insisting her knee length knickers were pants. Was it possible that while teaching her words I had miscommunicated what pants are?
I have no idea. All I know, is that you cannot rationalize with an irrational human being. I sighed and went to her drawer and pulled out a pair of pants.
"You must wear these today because it is cold outside." I held them out to her. She started protesting loudly... I feel like maybe you know what's coming. The wailing, the gnashing of teeth, and the crocodile tears that make you want to pull your hair out. That's when I knew, we are not just facing a miscommunication, we are dealing with outright disobedience.
I would venture to say, that the battle I have to fight most often with all four of my children is the battle of obedience. And I know exactly why that is, only because I know my own heart so well. Submission to anyone else is the biggest struggle for us humans. We really don't like other people telling us what to do, do we? We demand our freedom. Our rights. We want it our way right now.
Here is why this gets us into trouble. We are not prone to live well in freedom. We will always find a way to enslave ourselves to someone or something. If we are not consciously living a life obedient to the will of God, then we will end up living in obedience to someone or something else. We cannot be free. If we try to live independently from God, we will find ourselves enslaved to our own destructive selves or addictive habits. We will run as fast as we can into the darkness of pleasing self and satisfying the lusts of our flesh. What is the lust of the flesh? Anything that we desire more than God. It may even be good things like our children or husband. But when good things become the god thing that we desire most, that person or thing is what the Bible means when it says "idol".
You see, the reason my children disobey me is because they are enslaved to their own desires. They love themselves and what they want more than they love me. Ouch! That hurts doesn't it? When my children do what I ask them to, their actions radiate with honor and love for me, the sun shines, the birds sing, the planets align and we all do a happy dance with wreaths of flowers on our heads...Ahem...sorta. Let's just say, it feels wonderful when our children obey, doesn't it?
So it is with God. Jesus tells us this in John 14:15 when he says, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." Our obedience is evidence of our love for God. When we obey, we are saying to him, "You are more important to me than anyone or anything else."
The greatest commandment we have to follow is to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). This means we love him with the desires of our heart, with the emotions and personality of our soul, the thoughts and decisions of our mind and the actions, habits and works of our bodies. That's the whole person living in whole obedience. Too often though, I find myself holding back obedience in one or more of those areas. I might be obeying with my mind, but I'm going to hold on to some feelings of resentment towards another person who has wronged me. Or I may hold on to an action that I enjoy too much to let go of just yet. Even a little disobedience in me ruins the whole of me. If I love God, I will obey him...completely...with all of me.
This isn't easy y'all. It isn't easy for me, you, or our maturing children. But it is what's best for all of us. Living in obedience to God brings eternal life. There is no one or nothing else that can give us that. Too often we give our love and obedience to idols and it leads only to our own destruction. They destroy our bodies, our relationships, our homes, our jobs, even our minds and emotions are left a wreck. Paul Tripp says it this way in his devotional New Morning Mercies:
The one who is the final definition of love, wisdom, mercy, and power makes us his slaves. He who alone is able to give us life enslaves our hearts to him. His absolute rulership over every area of our lives is not a deadening law, but a life-giving grace. He is freeing us from our slavery to what is not true and cannot deliver. He is rescuing us from serving what will never give us life. He is protecting us from seeking hope where hope will never be found. It really is true-his call to obey is a tool of his rescuing grace.
Usually our kids see our rules and restrictions as confining and ruining their fun, don't they? They can't always understand that we see danger in their behavior that could bring them harm. So we must insist they obey us, even when they don't fully understand the situation, because we love them and want the best for them. Can you see how it is the same with God? He is not out to ruin our fun, he is out to give us something so much better than our fun ever could.
My prayer for you, me and our children, is that we would trust the goodness of God. I pray that our children will mature in their understanding of how deeply they are loved by the Father and will love him in return by living lives submitted to his rule. I pray that we as Mama's would be obedient to God, even when we think we know better. And that we will continue to grow in our obedience and love for the one true God who deserves our obedience more than any idol we could ever make for ourselves.
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey...but thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness...But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:17-23