Monday, July 18, 2016

Three Steps to Enjoy Being Told Exactly What to Do

            As the author Peter Mayle declared in his humorous book Toujours Provence, “There are times when it is a relief and a pleasure to be told exactly what to do,…”
            Have you ever felt like saying that: “Just tell me where to be, when to show up, and what to do?” That’s what I reiterated to my son months prior to his wedding, and, more recently, just before the big event.
            Evidently I wasn’t the only one desiring that type of direction. He told his father that was one technical piece he and his intended neglected to foresee: having to give so many people directions during the wedding week. Because of the need, he stayed up into the wee hours one night to write up a rather formal email (complete with artistic edge flourishes) to all of us principals, noting an hour-by-hour schedule of where and when to arrive for the rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, wedding day bridal party pictures, the family and groom/bride pictures, the wedding, the reception. We even got a schedule for the “First Look” experience pictures the bride and groom would have taken, sans the family and bulk of the wedding party. It took a moment of mental deliberation on my part to define what the “First Look” was, but I finally got it. The bride’s father divulged that it took him marrying two of his daughters before he was able to decipher it, and after a hearty shared laugh about our 21st Century (millennial) wedding protocol ignorance, I didn’t feel so brainless.
            The final experience was grand. Shear joy! Heart and brain exploded in a profound sense of freedom—to enjoy the event without having to be in charge, direct, or make decisions. To be out of control. Or, more precisely: to be out of my control and left in the hands of others. My only responsibility was to get myself properly coifed, attired and punctually transported to the scheduled events, with no other burden to tote around than a light heart.
            I felt free, and full of peace.
            Now I know it isn’t comfortable or even psychologically or physically beneficial to always have someone else dictate what you should do. Reams of research show that people who work and live under the oppressive shroud of constantly being dictated to are more depressed and saturated in hopelessness. So being in control over your life, (or, more aptly, feeling like you do), is a good thing.
            But there is One person to whom you should always submit, and that submission will break bondage chains, unleash possibilities, and drench you in a sense of freedom and peace. (I’m sure you know where I’m going with this.)
            The person to whom you should always submit is Jesus. Why? Because He knows you intimately, better than you know yourself. He created you. He knows how you think, how you function, your weaknesses and your strengths. He knows you inside and out, and He knows how to protect you from yourself and from the world. Submitting to Him is always the way to go. Always. But just exactly how do you do that? Volumes have been written on how to know the will of God. It’s inevitably everyone’s most pressing question. You can purchase those volumes to read up on what the scholars say, but I’ll give you three steps you can take today to be victorious in this area of submission and resulting peace.

Three Steps to Obedience

1. Your heart has got to want to submit.
            Why do I say heart? Because it always comes down to a heart issue. It all begins and ends there. People may try to turn it into a brilliant intellectual argument, with themselves or others, but invariably it’s really an issue about the heart. That’s one of the reasons God says He’ll give us a new one when we make the decision to follow Him. So it may be time to have a good, honest discussion with your heart. If you keep your heart imprisoned and under protected lock and key, it may be a knock down, drag out arguing match, but do it. (Trust me when I say that your life depends on it.) When you’re ready to free your heart and release it to God, and proclaim Him as the controller of it, then you can move on to Step 2.

2. Get to know Him.
            And how do you do that? The same way you got to know your friend, BFF, your bosom buddy, your bestie, your homey, your wife, your husband. You spent—and spend—precious time with them, because you want to! You—forgive me for using such a crass phrase—“hang out” with them. You get to know them intimately, what makes them tick, what their likes and dislikes are, what they expect of you as a friend and confidant. (There are always expectations in a relationship, and they are usually love, sacrifice, accountability, and reliability.) It takes a real friend to be a real friend.
            And that’s not so far from the mark when you talk about Jesus. Toward the end of his earthly life, he told his disciples that He no longer considered them servants but friends. That’s a big relationship and game-changer. He pointed out that servants don’t know what the master is doing, but friends do, because they keep one another informed.
            And that’s what God does: He keeps you informed. The first and most important place the information is spelled out for us is in Scripture. That’s where we need to start—His love letter to the world. Letters are written to be read. Love letters get read once, twice, three, a multitude of times. They’re kept carefully stashed away in special containers and places. They’re sprinkled with tearstains; they get worn from being grasped; they yellow with age. They’re creased and ragged from folding, unfolding, and turning over. They sometimes have notes written in the margins. Special passages and words are especially noted and underlined. If someone else asks about them, the recipient can put their hands on those priceless letters in a second and recount their lengthy prose by heart; show you exactly where that message is written in one of the letters.
            But getting to know someone that intimately means taking time to do it. It means identifying time-wasters that keep us from sitting down with Him. It means setting aside time to sit at His feet, read His letter, know what it says, allow it to change your heart, and develop a deeper understanding of God and a life-changing relationship with Him. In reality, He should be your Best Friend. No one else measures up to the kind of friend He can be to you.
            My dad made a strong, memorable point to me one day when I told him I didn’t have time to do something. “Nonsense,” he retorted with a knowing smirk. A person always finds time to do the things he wants to do.” Touché! How right he was. (Not always true when you’re a stay-at-home-mother of toddlers, but you get the point.)
            The self-inspecting question then becomes: Do you want to do it?
            It’s a question that’s been pecking persistently at my mind and heart for a while, probably because for the last several years I’ve been letting a little more of the world into my life, compromising more, getting stained by all of it, and neglecting the finer things He has to offer: like truth and life. I’ve been getting lazy with God and have sometimes found myself masquerading as Jesus’ friend. Thankfully, He’s always ready to re-ignite the friendship and forget how I’ve been lacking in the relationship.

3. Close Your Ears and Eyes to the World’s Wisdom (and stop repeating it)

            Now here comes the hard part. We all have got to stop listening to the world’s “wisdom.” Because usually it isn’t; and it can set you quickly sailing down the wrong path without any method of turning the boat around. Like an alcoholic who needs to radically change his social scene and obtain a new set of friends (and abandon his old, drinking partners), we need to protect our hearts, minds, ears and eyes. We need to flee lust and sexual sin in all forms (including being a paying voyeur at a sex-saturated, nudey movie), turn off the brain-deadening television, pay less attention to our own social media, (and the social media of the rich and famous), and strive to be pure of heart, pure of mind, and pure of body. Put it down, put it away, and practice deliberate avoidance. Perfect, like our Father in heaven is perfect.
            Easy? No. But it’s certainly worth striving for. And just think about how freeing it can be! To be as unencumbered from the world as possible (this will be different depending on your job and responsibilities) and more encumbered by being a friend of Jesus.
            Knowing what He likes and doesn’t like. Knowing how to deal with and live in the world and not be of it. Being simultaneously shrewd and harmless. Being loving, kind, joyful, peaceful, gentle, good, long suffering, patient, faithful, and having self-control. Being obedient and actually enjoy having Him direct and tell you where to go and what to do. While the world knows a little bit of truth, and it can all sound so good to our itching ears, quite often the truth is intertwined with a lot of lies that need to be ferreted out and squashed.
            The more time you spend with Him, the more natural and instinctive it will be. And you’ll know immediately when you’ve erred and need to be forgiven. You’ll be ultra-sensitive to His desires for your life.

Where are you now?

            Where are you right now in these three steps? Have you started them? Do you need a refresher course in them? Have you gotten all of the way to Step 3, retreated, and now find yourself hovering between steps 1 and 2, or 2 and 3?
            Start by asking yourself some honest, revealing questions, and then let Him hand you the life directions. The world won’t like it, and you’re likely to get some backlash and heckling, but hang in there. It really is nice having Him tell you where to go and what to do.
            You and your precious life are worth it!

            Next week we'll look further at being in control, with a focus on women, wives and mothers. See you then!


Until next Monday, may your week be full of blessings that you receive and give, your heart be full of joy and thankfulness, and your days be filled with laughter! Build a little heaven in your life right now, and watch your heavenly garden grow!



When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in, heaven has begun right here on earth. ~ A. W. Tozer

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