emilynisch

The Habit of Obedience

In Christianity, Life on July 24, 2009 at 11:27 am

Yep, obedience. An often avoided concept.

After I came back from Michigan a few weeks ago, I was watching my friends’ kids (all under 4 years old) run around the living room where we were meeting together. Occasionally, one of them needed to be pulled aside and taken into time out, or talked with and taught about why something they did was wrong. A few of those times, the parent would warn the child that if they did what they had just done one more time, they would be put in time out. Usually the younger kids would think about what they wanted to choose (it’s funny how early you can see this happening) and do the thing anyway – usually with a clear knowledge that they were choosing to disobey and a desire to test the boundary their parent had set; often the older kids would think about it, then, despite obviously wanted to do again what they had just done, choose (somewhat disappointedly) to move on to something else.

All of a sudden, I envied the discipline these kids were getting. At the young ages of 1, 2 and 3, their ability to reject the strong rebellious desires in them was already being strengthened – and showing itself to be effective enough to help them choose obedience over what they obviously strongly desired.

More than that, they were already learning that obedience is the good choice. In a predictable way, they could see that disobedience caused pain and unpleasantness (including  a parent’s attitude of discipline) and that obedience caused a momentary unpleasantness (of losing the desired item or act) and the longer lasting fruits of parental praise and the fun of enjoying the next thing they decided to play with.

That night in the living room I saw in a clearer way how God has been parenting me – and how Godly parents can help a child avoid some of God’s discipline later. It’s all about training. When you train in obedience you become stronger in choosing the good and rejecting the bad. You’re used to what that choice feels like. You also know it’s repercussions; you have come to know that what seems good in the moment hides an ugly tail. You also come to expect and desire the stronger and longer-lasting pleasures resulting from obedience. In a way, you learn to bring the fruits of obedience close enough to you, and to the present moment, that they outweigh the immediate pleasure the is being offered in the act of disobedience. Another way to say this is that you gain perspective.

Thinking through all of this has impressed on me the necessity to discipline well. If have children someday, I want them to know that God guides them into what is good for them, and that he’s always faithful, steady and predictable in that guiding. I want them to know that they can trust that God will discipline them when they veer off his path and choose their own – that this is a good thing, and it’s good that they can rely on God always doing this, always helping them out. I want them to know that I’m helping them win the fight of life by making it easier for them to choose what’ good. And I also want them to know that just as God’s discipline is reliable and trustworthy, so his his acceptance and love. He disciplines because he loves and because he’s made us his children. 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  1. “When you train in obedience you become stronger in choosing the bad and rejecting the good.”

    I think you meant to say this the other way around: choosing the good and rejecting the bad. It’s okay, it can be easy to get good and evil confused… 😉

    Less facetiously, thanks for sharing. These are wise thoughts.

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