Earlier this week, I had conversations with two of my friends about a topic that has been on my mind a lot – obedience. Obedience isn’t a popular concept, especially in our fiercely individualist, independent culture. I am very much a product of that culture. Even a year ago, I would have conflated obedience with oppression or captivity or a host of other concepts. But I can choose freely to obey.
As I mentioned many times on this blog, life in my 20s has regularly been challenging, confusing, troublesome, and sometimes just plain crappy – even though by any standards, things have been going really well for me. This seems to be a common phenomenon among my friends. We seem to hold ourselves to one crazy standard: that we can fit our complicated lives into the specific definition of success that we keep being sold wholesale by society, and we can do it by ourselves. We can have high-powered jobs, an active social life, a fun love life, slim bodies, and great hair all at the same time because we are young and in our prime!
And honestly, I was doing a serviceable job fitting into that model, but I was exhausted and so scared of falling short. Then during Advent, I just kind of gave up on it. A handwritten piece of paper taped to a statue in a church I don’t usually go to spelled out Matthew 11:30 – “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Well, shit, I remember thinking. My burden felt so heavy and so stupid and so pointless, but God was offering to trade with me. So I figured I could try that. I’m still trying that. But I get really uncomfortable not getting to have exactly what I want at all times. I get really uncomfortable not being in charge of all decisions at all times. I get really uncomfortable with being uncomfortable. Because by giving my burdens to God, I took his on.
The flip side of making the hard things in my life up to God is the terrifying reality that I have to deal with what God does with them. The outcome was no longer in my hands. And shocker… I am truly and honestly bad at relinquishing control and accepting the outcome.
I often find myself frustrated bordering on furious as I think about letting go of my own timelines for my life — the arbitrary achievements I decided that I “should” have under my belt by whatever arbitrary time I defined. My goals aren’t bad (that wasn’t the problem), but I continue to be tempted to force my decisions forward, unresponsive to signs that it might not be for the best or that maybe something would be better.
As one of this week’s conversations reminded me, we have to approach the path of our lives like children. I can ask for what I want, but I don’t always know what is best for me, so it has to be to God, the parent, to make the final decision. The consequence of the easy yoke and “do not worry about your life” is that God is taking the decisions on for me. Like a child, I can dream and plan and ask, but my parent decides and guides and molds me. Even when I was a child, I didn’t like to let that happen. My earthly parents can vouch for that. I’m stubborn and emotional with a short fuse.
But I guess this is one where I have to just say, “Well, I don’t understand this in my human capacity but must rely on God to know what’s best for me.” How many times does this need to be proven to me for me to honestly believe it? In 2014, I fought the end of my relationship tooth and nail for months, but it ended anyway. And I have thrived and been happier than I’d been in a long time, much to my surprise. How often do I need to be surprised by the grace of submitting to change?
Circumstances change, I change, my life changes – there’s only so much I can do to cling to stasis and my comfort zone. I recently was told that if my comfort zone isn’t growing, it’s shrinking. And comfort zones only grow through discomfort. Not being comfortable with being uncomfortable constantly pushes the border of what obedience means, what I willingly hand over, what parts of my life I finally let lay open to the will God has for me.
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” – Thomas Merton
I’m linking up with Blessed Is She on this topic, here.