Last night my husband taught the High School group at church, because their pastor got sick with the flu. At group time, I cut out, and joined the congregation for communion in the main sanctuary.
So, while I sat, holding the bread and the cup, I remembered God’s Son—His broken body and life poured out. Sweet confession began stirring deep within. This heart in me being prone to wander, the cross appeared like a Shepherd’s crook, hooking my neck, drawing me back to Him, again.
All day I’d been pondering Jesus’s obedience, when He crouched on His knees in the Garden of Gethsemane, sweating blood while battling His will. The march to the cross being set before Him, He prayed, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).
While thinking on this, I asked myself, what is obedience, but joining with Christ in this same prayer? It’s submitting our desires to whatever He has for our lives. It’s receiving with opened hands what He chooses to give or withhold.
Obedience isn’t always easy, and I think the example Jesus shows doesn’t mean we can’t ask for another way.
What obedience does mean is that we ask for His way above our own, and sometimes we will have to crouch on knees, sweating what feels like blood, toiling in prayer, before our will is finally surrendered.
Just over a year ago, my husband stepped down from leading the high schoolers he taught last night. It thrust us on an emotional roller coaster. The decision contradicted everything in our hearts. If God’s called you to something, likely it’s okay to pursue it. This time He worked backwards with us. He asked us to give up the thing we love. He asked us to release our hold on what we believed to be God’s call.
We found ourselves praying with Jesus, “Not my will, but Yours, be done.”
Through this, I’ve seen in my heart that it’s easy to be in love with the call. It’s easy to get excited when you hear your purpose and know your destination.
But when God asks you to let go of the call, it strips away all spirituality, and gets at deep motives in the heart. Do I love the call more than the One who gave the call? Will I be content to serve my Lord if He asks me to let a desire or a dream completely die?
What if He asked me to live a quiet life–to slip under the eyes of others and labor with no reward here on this earth? Am I willing?
Abraham had a hard call. God asked him to take his son and sacrifice him on the altar.
When the time came for Abraham to plunge the knife into his teenager, with arms above his head, another call came, “STOP.” God knew then that Abraham loved Him.
But didn’t God already know that Abraham loved him?
Or was the sacrifice really meant to show Abraham that he loved God?
Did God use this to strip away deep motives in Abraham’s heart? Maybe there were desires for fame. God had promised a lineage through this son. He’d promised the Messiah.
I find in my life that obedience to God’s will is really just this: God proving to me I already love Him by stripping away all other motives.
As much as I need to know God loves me, I need to know I really love Him, and I’m not in this Christianity for me. I’m in it for Jesus.
So when I took the bread and cup in my fingers, and I began to remember all the ways I’ve failed my God, I also remembered all the ways He’s sustained me. Recognizing at the same time that it isn’t obedience which qualifies me to be used by Him–that’s grace. Obedience is what proves my love. And many times my failure leads me right back to the obedient path.
It’s here I find myself lifting these elements. Bread in hand, I eat. The cup which symbolizes God’s wrath poured out on His Son, the cup which symbolizes His own bloodshed, I take and drink.
And I remember it was this cup He asked God to take away. This cup He drank in obedience, proving His love.
And His obedience is the great motivator for all my obedience, causing me to say, “Not my will, but Yours, be done.”
Elisabeth Elliot has written, “To love God is to love His will.”
Yes, “To love God is to love His will.”