Recently, God has been showing me the beauty of obedience. It’s not a particularly fun word. I associate it with duty, sacrifice from what I want, and begrudging acceptance. But recently, He has been showing me that obedience to His will is a lot simpler and more joy-filled than I thought. Daily obedience to God starts with simply following His commandments: love God above all else, and love thy neighbor. It isn’t profound nor does it sound exciting, but stay with me.
Perhaps the commandments are not just rules to keep us out of sin but a roadmap to discovering the beauty of God’s design for our lives. Our creator knows that our sins and struggles, all of the things we look to for solace, won’t make us happy. He knows that my personal tendency to isolate when I’m insecure will only end up hurting me more. He knows that my need for instant gratification just leaves me feeling emptier, like I’m missing something obvious that I just can’t quite grasp. God knows about my selfishness and all of the sinful ways I try to cope with my brokenness, and He wants to deliver me from that self-destruction.
“If we truly believe that God is good and loving and takes delight in us, then we also have to believe that the commandments are meant to bring about goodness, beauty, and truth when we live them out.”
The commandments He gives are not just rules. If we truly believe that God is good and loving and takes delight in us, then we also have to believe that the commandments are meant to bring about goodness, beauty, and truth when we live them out. They are an invitation to step outside of my own distorted view of reality to see the truth which heals. That truth is that God is perfect in his knowledge, and I am not. He knows my needs better than I do. I have to laugh at myself for thinking that I know what will make me happy and what will satisfy me. I am like a child who cries when her father tells her not to eat dirt. I think I know what I want but my father has better plans. He offers me a delicious lunch, but I refuse to let the soil fall from the grasp of my stubborn little hand. I cling to what is easy and attractive while God offers what is truly good and just.
My father has recently showed me this silly notion that I somehow know what’s best, and that He must be out of touch or holding out on me. When I struggle with one of Jesus’s more difficult teachings, I argue with myself that maybe there’s certain exceptions to what He says. It seems more acceptable to the world that way, so it’s probably true. I justify my behavior by agreeing with someone that maybe certain sins aren’t really that bad depending on the context. A little voice in the back of my head tells me to accumulate and collect rather than rejoice in the provision of enough. “Buy this thing for yourself and think of how great you will feel with it!” I grab another fist full of dirt.
Luckily, our father is patient and always good. I picture him lovingly shaking his head as I poke at the hard-to-swallow veggies he brings me. “One day you will see,” he thinks. “You will understand why I asked you to do this, because it will help you grow healthy and make you happier in the long run. You will probably even be grateful that I didn’t let you eat sand all day.” It’s not all veggies that he offers, by the way. Sure, some of God’s commandments can feel restrictive or dull during times of heart rebellion, but following many of His commandments brings about the sweetest moments and relationships. He loves to surprise us with rich meats and sweet desserts, too, when we rely on Him to nurture us instead of trying to do it ourselves. Our father doesn’t tire of giving us good things. Again and again, He gives us opportunities to choose Him over whatever dirt we try to hold on to.
The lyrics from “Cecie’s Lullaby” by Steffany Gretzinger are a sweet reminder of what God wants for his children, what he wants to offer us out of His tender, fatherly love.
If obedience feels oppressive, you’re not alone. Our hearts wander as we try to find what brings lasting contentedness in this shaky world. Take heart in the truth that He is a good father. He does not ask us to be obedient for obedience sake nor to keep us from experiencing earthly delights. He invites us to live according to His commandments because it is the path to true fulfilment and intimacy with Him. No one knows us better than He does; no one loves us more. He has been our father since creation and always will be. Don’t you think maybe he knows best?
Callie Whitesell is a junior psychology major from Athens, Georgia. She hopes to pursue a career in occupational therapy. Callie is currently studying abroad in Scotland.