Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Obedience and Humility

My oldest daughter is, more often than not, a happy, helpful, obedient child. She tends to attract fan clubs everywhere she goes because she's vibrant and social and loves to please people.

She's also very emotional and has a tendency to be over-the-top when she's upset. The last week or so, every time I've asked her to clean her room I've been met with glaring, stomping and "I don't want to!" My response to this is almost always a very calm, "So? I didn't ask if you wanted to. It needs to be done. Go clean your room." And so she begrudgingly marches up to her room and pouts and whines the whole time she's accomplishing the chore, moving slowly, frequently getting upset, even yelling at her brother a bit.

I don't interrupt this little melodrama. What I've asked her to do, though it seems monumental to her little eyes (and, to be fair, she and her brother can make one heck of a mess in there), is not so big a task it can't be tackled. What she also seems to have forgotten lately is that, usually, when she happily agrees to complete this task, I help her. What could be a long, miserable chore turns into a fun, fairly quick activity with an attentive parent--the only difference is her attitude.

How often do we, as children, approach things our Heavenly parents have asked us to do in this same way? How often do we say, "I don't wanna!!" and stomp our feet and throw our fists? Our temper tantrum doesn't make the right thing any less right, it simply makes us miserable while we're doing it (or even more miserable while we're refusing to do it). We can avoid it (which inevitably leads to more misery down the line) or we can approach it with a displeased if-I-have-t0 attitude, which will make us miserable and resentful of the whole thing. Or we can cheerfully say, "Ok! I can do this!" and have a happy, loving parent at our side, helping the whole time.

Its is easy for us to sit in judgment of others as they act and react to trials or challenges in their lives that we have not ourselves been asked to experience. Sometimes we take for granted that we'd do the right thing if we were in their position, because we usually are obedient when push comes to shove. But the point of the story about David and Bathsheba is not to teach us that David was an awful person or that leaders can fall. Its to remind us that anyone, no matter how good and obedient they have been over the course of their life, can fall into misery and disobedience quickly if humility and self-honesty and the impressions of the Spirit are ignored. David has been promised that he won't languish in misery forever, but the price he'll have to pay is very, very steep. So many of his good deeds and faithful acts are undermined by a single, prideful instance where he failed to be obedient to the Lord's will.

David exercised a great deal more faith throughout most of his life than I can honestly imagine in my own--from his courageous childhood act of walking up to a giant with nothing but a slingshot while grown, trained soldiers cowered in fear, to living in the wilderness to protect himself from a jealous ruler, to governing his people with justice and righteousness. He faced many challenges and trials, made many sacrifices out of a desire to be righteous and obedient, yet that didn't mean he was done. There were still sacrifices to make, challenges to overcome and temptations to conquer. How strongly must the Spirit have warned him, "Look away!" and yet that resistant, human part of him responded "I don't wanna!" If he, so blessed and faithful, could fall so quickly, how much faster then could I slip into undesirable circumstances if I am not constantly vigilant in trying to cultivate the humility to be obedient, no matter what is asked of me?

Life never stops testing us. Difficult things never stop being required of us. Sometimes, it is immediately obvious why we must do something. Sometimes, we never (in this life) know why we were supposed to do something, or not do something. But I know that our lives are blessed when we exercise the faith to believe that whatever the Lord requires is right. It has been amply proved to me that when we are obedient to His commandments and promptings, we are blessed for it, and all things will work together for our good, even if we can't understand how.

The key to a joyful life, regardless of what circumstances we may be in, is to learn to say, not begrudgingly but with a genuinely joyful and grateful heart, "I'll go where you want me to go, dear Lord. . .I'll say what you want me to say. . .I'll be what you want me to be".

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