I’m a “you’re not the boss of me” kind of girl. I always have been. I am the girl who, growing up, did the exact opposite of what I was told, every. single. time. Lessons are learned well but the hard way when you live life like that. I do not naturally have an obedient spirit.
I don’t like authority, and for years this kept me away from God. Along with several other skewed ideas of what giving my life to Christ would entail, I simply didn’t want to be told what to do. I saw God as just another rule-maker, gleefully stealing my freedom. I know now that this is not true of God; this is not His character. Like many other misconceptions I had, I have found- through my own relationship with Christ- that the God of the Bible and in my heart is NOTHING like the God I heard about in the world and spent years running from. It has been an amazing journey, discovering daily a little bit of God’s goodness. And I know that even in the 10 years since I came to Christ, I have just taken a tiny peek- just lifted a tiny fingernail corner of the wrapping paper that holds the best gift ever given.
But I have struggled with this obedience thing.
I still hold onto the part of me that wants to do things my way… in my time… and in my own strength. I have been described as “independent,” “strong willed” and a “take charge kinda gal” with a “gets it done mentality.” My favorite description ever was when a friend of mine said I was “a pit bull for all that is right.” I like these things about myself. I am proud to be a strong woman and these things can be good things – strengths, even. But they can also be weaknesses and strongholds. I have also been described as “controlling” and “neurotic,” and I can “suck the joy out of any project” with my take charge and perfectionist drive. And the biggest issue is that still struggle with giving my all up to Christ and living an obedient life. Yikes.
Isn’t it true that our greatest strengths are often tied to our greatest weaknesses? And isn’t it just like God to take something, a gift or a talent, and when given up to Him, MAKE IT SHINE? But when we take over on His behalf or sell it to the highest bidder, let it rot? I know it sounds crazy, but that makes me so grateful. Because if He didn’t temper me in this way, I would be out there making spreadsheets and trying to run this world for Him.
My get-it-done attitude can be enormously helpful if you are organizing something or spearheading some project. You want me on your team for these things. I have good tenacity and I will freak out full throttle and get. it. done. But if you want stillness and gentleness? Or patience and submission? Get a different friend – I am not your girl.
This is an issue in my faith.
While a “make it or break it” attitude is applauded in the world, it is not applauded in the Word. I somehow managed to survive my hard-taught life lessons with nothing but a few bumps and bruises and good war stories. But this cannot be true for my journey to redemption because when I gave my life to Christ, I promised to give Him my all; the good, the bad, and the ugly and let Him transform me into the person He created me to be. And the ugly part of me wants to control and earn and work and bulldoze through life. But this is not His will.
Radical obedience is.
I am doing a bible study right now called SAYING YES TO GOD. We are going through an online study with Proverbs 31 Ministries and working through What Happens When Women Say Yes to God and I am just finishing a chapter about this thing they call Radical Obedience. And if I am honest, I love and hate this book all at the same time. When I hear the word radical – I think crazy. When I hear the word obedience – I think never. You put these two together and every inch of my old self wants to revolt. But as I get to know God better and better and let Him mold me and teach about himself and about what obedience really looks like to Him, I am finding that I am sure glad He is a God of second, ninth and millionth chances.
I am learning so much from the study and very much enjoying rolling around in those healing scriptures we are working with. But at the same time, I am feeling very defensive and very convicted. I am having to struggle through some of the areas in my life that aren’t fully obedient and that is hard stuff. But the biggest issue I have found through this study is that it isn’t just that I sometimes find it hard to obey and the old me still stiffens a bit at the concept. It is also that my method of obedience isn’t real obedience.
WHAT? I know… let me explain because I’ve had an epiphany of sorts.
What I really hate about obedience is that I can’t do it on my own. It isn’t something I can work and work and work and work on and finally achieve an A+ and a gold star. Graded like that, the old me, that take-charge-and-knock-it-out-like-a-project-and-get-it-perfect girl has failed. Try as I might, these areas of disobedience are places where I have striven too long, tried to hard, failed too much. And what I have discovered, in a light-bulb-finally-goes-on kind of way, is that these are not so much the disobedient areas of my life, they are the unsubmitted ones.
See, God made me strong. But He also made me to live a life He has chosen and woven for me and He has designed me in a way that I can’t live that life without being fully submitted to Him. So when I go out on my own, (read STAY) I mess up and miss out on His will. And for so long, I thought of obedience as something I could work on and do better at…. I thought of it like a goal or a verb – something hard and edgy and attainable through striving. That maybe, through my sheer pit bull nature, I could wrestle my own selfish will down to the ground and put it in a choke hold in order to hear His – literally a battle of the wills.
But God has been teaching me that obedience is not a doing, it is a way of being.
Now THAT is a radical thought. You mean I can’t WORK my way into obedience anymore than I can WORK my way into heaven? Apparently not.
Part of me wants to panic at this thought. But part of me feels so very relieved. Because trying to live a Christian life and have an obedient spirit through my own sheer will is exhausting. And impossible. Because again, God designed me to need HIM to accomplish this. So this realization that I can give up all that striving and just say yes to God… well that is terrifying and yet peace-provoking all at the same time. My striving for obedience makes me nothing more than a fat little hamster on a wheel; I’m goin’ nowhere folks. But my submitting to God and simply saying yes to Him not only makes me obedient, it sets me free.
I know it is semantics, but as much as I don’t like the word obedience, I love the concept of saying yes to God. So when I think of it like that, I find it much more palatable; I want so be His Yes Girl. I want to be the one He can rely on to say yes and do that hard thing. I don’t like to be told what to do, but I do like to do what is right. And it is only my own pride and sinful nature that make me swell up like a peeved-off-porcupine at the idea of being obedient.
Saying yes to God is still a hard thing, a scary thing, a radical thing. When He calls us to do something we are afraid of doing (like start a writing ministry and share your messy life and struggles and shortfalls with the world) it is so tempting to just ignore Him and go on with a nice safe life. But it is even more tempting to me (when I finally gave in and said yes) to try to control it and manipulate it and take charge so that it feels safe again. Control is the opposite of submission and yet my very favorite thing.
Submission is the most radical thing of all. Submission is saying yes to God.
Here are the misconceptions I struggle with:
LIE: God just wants to tell me what to do.
TRUTH: He wants to give me His unconditional love and grace and forgiveness so that I can do what He made me to do.
LIE: God just doles out rules and limitations that steal my freedom and joy.
TRUTH: He wants me to know true freedom in forgiveness and the joy of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.
LIE: God just wants to control my life.
LIE: God likes to say no.
TRUTH: He likes me to say yes.
and here is the big one, gleaned straight from my bible study….
LIE: If I give every tiny corner of my life over to Him, I will lose control and have to do the things I fear the most. Or worse, yet, I will miss out on the things I love the most.
TRUTH: I never had control to begin with. And as Lysa TerKeurst says in this book, “One thing you can be assured of is that God has already worked out all the details of what your obedience will accomplish – and it is good. We need not fear what our obedience will cause to happen in our life. We should only fear what our disobedience will cause us to miss.”
My life is not mine, it is His. My gifts are His, my blessings: His. I AM HIS.
So when I am tempted to get all pit bull crazy and start trying to earn and strive and super-scrub out the corners of my life in my own strength (when they really just need His gentle grace and stillness,) I need to remember that His ways are not my ways (Isaiah 55:8) and that His will is good and perfect. And that saying yes to God means saying yes to having life and having it abundantly.