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. I felt like I’d make things awkward for the girls who didn’t know me…or really, I just felt awkward! :) Whatever the case, I’m glad I went into the main sanctuary, because I got to partake in communion.
While I sat, fingering the bread and the cup, remembering the body of the Son of God broken, His life poured out, whispers of sweet confession began stirring deep within. This heart in me prone to wander; the cross appearing like a Shepherd’s crook, hooking my neck, drawing me back to Him, again.
I’d been pondering the obedience of Jesus, when He crouched on His knees in the Garden of Gethsemane, sweating drops of blood while battling His will, the march to the cross 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? Submitting our desires to whatever He has in every aspect of our lives. Receiving with opened hands that which He chooses to give or withhold.
Obedience isn’t always easy, and I think the example of Jesus shows that it 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 our knees, sweating what feels like drops of blood, toiling in prayer, before our will is finally surrendered.
Just over a year ago, my husband stepped down from leading some of the very High Schoolers he taught last night. It thrust us on a roller coaster of emotions. The decision contradicting all that’s in our hearts. If God’s called you to something, likely it’s okay to pursue it, but He worked backwards with us. He asked us to give up the thing we love. To release our hold on that which we believed to be the call of God.
We found ourselves praying with Jesus, “Not my will, but Yours, be done.”
In all of 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. When you know your destination.
But when God asks me to let go of the call, it strips away all spirituality, and gets at deep motives of 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? No wishful thinking. No hope of it in my future.
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 of Abraham’s heart? Desires for fame…God had promised a lineage through this son. An heir. He’d promised the Messiah.
I find in my life that obedience to the will of God is really just this: God proving to me that I already love Him. Stripping me of all other motives.
As much as I need to know the love of God for me, I need to know that I really love Him, that 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 that I’ve failed my God, I also remembered all the ways He’s sustained me.
Recognizing that my obedience isn’t what qualifies me to be used by Him; that’s grace.
Obedience is what proves my love. And most of the time, it’s my failure that will lead me right back to the path of obedience.
It’s here that I find myself lifting these elements. Bread in hand, I eat. The cup which symbolizes the wrath of God poured out on His Son, the cup which symbolizes His own bloodshed, I take and drink.
And I remember that it was this cup He asked God to take away. This cup He drank in obedience — proving His love.
And this is the great motivator of all my obedience — when I can 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.”