Wednesday Afternoon Obedience

daily crossI fear I am more than a little hard-headed and stubborn. I look in the mirror and I see there a rebel, pushing back against the One who knows my name, bears my scars, gave everything for me.

Not just stubborn. I am foolish. Ungrateful. And truthfully, I am ridiculous, for who would push back against so much grace?

I expect I’m not the only one. That person in the mirror– she worries too much about herself and what others will think of her. She craves approval and attention. She obeys the Grace-giver when she thinks it will earn her the applause of others. As if true obedience to the despised and scorned Lamb of God could ever truly earn the applause of this world.

How many times have I prayed, Lord, reveal Yourself to me. Reveal to me Your way, Your plan for me, Your path for my life? How many times have I pledged to obey, expressed my deep desire to walk in His ways, begged to be used by God?

These are prayers the Lord delights to answer, for He has created us as masterpieces to do His good work. He has not failed to answer. I have failed to obey.

Life feels like a whirlwind and I am so good at justifying my lack of obedience, blaming my busy schedule, my wild days, my sprained ankle, my rheumatoid arthritis. I justify my rebellion in my heart even as I pour out words on paper– I feel like life is out of control; I can’t get any sense of order or accomplishment here, Lord. I need You to show me the way I should go. I want to abide in You and bear fruit and be the person you created me to be. I know You didn’t create me to feel like my life is about to fly apart . . .

It would be funny if it weren’t so sadly true.God has already answered my prayer, showed me His way. I have ignored it. I have given half-hearted lipservice to obedience instead of single-mindedly pursuing the God of my life. I have cut myself off from the very peace my heart craves, because I have not obeyed.

If you obey my commandments, you will abide in my love, as I have obeyed my Father’s commandments and so abide in his love.

How can I possibly experience the abundant life, the overflowing joy, the peace that passes understanding, if I am refusing to abide? I say I want to abide, but if I’m not obedient to God’s clearly communicated will for me, I am showing that the desires of my heart are to have my own way, obey my own flesh.

My good God does not leave me to fly apart like the contents of a blender without the lid on. He is so very merciful. His Spirit speaks to my heart and reminds me that He has already told me what I need to know, what I need to do right now.

A friend spoke real truth to me the other day, that we so often tend to look at surrender as a huge, emotional, one-time event that immediately changes everything. And that’s where the surrender often starts, I think. But the true surrender, as my friend said, is so much more than that. It is a daily choice, a daily hard submission to the Potter. And it is hard. When the emotions wear out, when the obedience gets old, when the results don’t meet my expectations, when I’m off the mountaintop and down in the swampland or the dry desert, when I wonder if anyone even sees me– that is when the true surrender happens.

If anyone would come after me, he must take up his cross daily and follow me.

All the beautiful, almost romantic glamor of making a decision at church camp or an evangelistic meeting or a Sunday morning service– all the tears and the repentance and the “I Surrender All” and the “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”– all of that is good, and it has a place. But there is nothing beautiful or romantic or glamorous about Wednesday afternoon obedience when the urgency and the passion and the emotions have died down. When I can’t remember why this thing I was so passionate about even matters. This is when God begins to really do His work, deep down in the hidden places that no one else sees. This is the daily cross Jesus spoke about.

But no one notices, I say.

I do, He reminds me, and I am pleased by you.

This isn’t even making a difference, I protest.

It is in your life, slow but sure, He promises.

When will I see fruit? I ask.

In due season you will reap, if you do not faint, He whispers.

Am I alone here? I am desperate.

Never. He assures me. I am with you wherever you go.

Will You help me? I plead.

Always.

And so my Grace-giver brings my foolish and wandering heart back to Him. Daily surrender. Daily Jesus. Daily sufficient grace. And one day– the very face of Christ.

They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength . . . they shall walk and not faint.

 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Looking to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of my faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross . . .

To live is Christ, and to die is gain.

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