A couple of months ago, I wrote a piece about the way God was challenging me to practice patience. You can read it here.
In the middle of what felt like the longest season of my life, I asserted that there was nothing I was worse at than being patient. And so as I finally settled into the waiting, I felt like I had accomplished something pretty darn incredible. After a while, I even started to feel a little smug. “Look at me, doing the patience thing. Pretty impressive, considering everything I’ve been through, don’t you think?” Not my finest moment, really.
Nevertheless, God acknowledged that I was waiting as He had asked me to. I felt His approval in my daily living, and when I wasn’t reveling in my own sense of accomplishment, I was grateful for the way that this season was bringing me so much closer to Him. And then, He added a new facet to His directive:
Here’s the thing… don’t tell me what to do. Not if you want it to get done, anyways. I have a defiant streak a mile wide; I am stubborn, even obstinate, about my free will. (Once as a kid, I had decided to clean my room because I was sick of the mess. I was literally walking up the stairs to get to work, and my mom popped her head around the corner and said, “Hey Trace, I want you to pick up your room today.” I proceeded to pitch a fit about getting the job done. The job I was just heading to do because I knew it needed to get done. I’m sorry to report that I have yet to grow out of this kind of behavior.)
So there it was. For months, I had been hearing “patience” everywhere I went: every time I prayed, every time I sought something, the answer was always “patience”. And then just as I got the hang of it, a shift happened, and all I heard was “be obedient”. *Cue the deep sigh we normally associate with petulant teenagers*
Right on schedule, I was faced with a challenge that required me to make a hard choice. It required me to deny myself something I wanted badly, but that I knew was not from Him. And guess what? I failed. I caved. I let myself be disobedient, because, gosh darn it, I had earned the right to screw up a little bit. Again, not my finest moment. And then I heard something from a pastor that I had never considered before:
“Even Jesus had to learn obedience.”
“Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” Hebrews 5:8-9
Obviously, Jesus never “cut himself some slack” because he’d earned the right to screw up. He learned obedience from what he suffered and was made perfect. Now, I will never be perfect; but I can be made perfectly whole in my purpose. I can be led to be a perfect picture of what God can do with ashes. I can be given perfect love and let that shine out through me, too. But to have those things, obedience is required.
I’m still struggling with it. Temptations pop up and promise to be a balm for my wounds, and when I hear “be obedient” I still want to pitch a fit. But a few months ago, I felt that way about being patient. Maybe someday soon, I’ll be feeling smug about how obedient I am. And then I can remind myself that there is always a new lesson, always a new challenge, always a new directive on this path He’s got me on.
What word(s) are you hearing from God that challenge you? Share in the comments!