Delayed Obedience is Disobedience

Instead of attending church and licking the plate of a home cooked meal, I spent Easter Sunday in Rochester, New York, held up in a hotel room binge-watching the first season of “Gilmore Girls.” As usual, I’m late to the amazing television series party.

Relax. It’s not like I’ve never heard of the show. A few of my friends watch the reruns on Netflix. I’m a, “Law and Order: SVU” kinda girl myself, so the idea of romance and drama in a small town named Stars Hollow was never all that riveting to me in the first place.

Anyhow, I digress.

During a discussion with my two flying partners the day before, the topic of mother-daughter relationships came up and the less than perfect bond between Emily and Lorelai Gilmore was referenced. The flight attendant who had seen,”Gilmore Girls” raved about how great it was and assured me that it was “clean” and “You could watch it with a five year old.” A wholesome show at least in part about a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship? Now the Gilmores had my attention. I figured, what the heck? I’ve got thirty hours to kill in Rochester, why not give it a try. So I committed to watching at least one episode of, “Gilmore Girls” on my layover.

Then I watched eight.

In the days following my newfound obsession, I found myself being constantly lulled to sleep by the heart warming banter between Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. Night after night, I was peeling my body from the sofa and dragging myself to bed. One morning, after one of those nights, I commenced my quiet time with God. Propped up against the chaise at the end of my bed, I bowed my head and began with thanksgiving. As my prayers transitioned from one topic to the next, the Holy Spirit began to interrupt my thoughts. I stopped talking and listened. Then, I heard. Per the command of God, I had to stop watching, “Gilmore Girls.”

Yes, fully involved and several episodes into the second season, God said no. Completely crushed, I told God, Okay. I’ll give it up…next week. What I heard next was as clear as the cloudless blue sky currently hiding behind my living room curtains: “Delayed obedience is disobedience.” I knew then that I had to decide in that moment whether I was going to heed the voice of God or give in to my own desires. And so, my short lived affair with, “Gilmore Girls” came to an abrupt halt.

It may seem silly that God would ask me to give up something as seemingly harmless as a t.v. show, but it didn’t come as a complete surprise to me. My spirit had already been stirred by some of the minor themes in the show. I’d simply chosen to overlook them because they weren’t that bad. Two things in particular that bothered me about, “Gilmore Girls,” was the promotion of sex outside of marriage and promiscuity.

Because of it’s prevalence, fornication (among many other “little” sins) is sort of…expected these days. Not a big deal, even. Yet God is reminding me that we don’t answer to the culture or times, we answer to His word. And if there is anything we watch, read, listen to, participate in, or entertain that is not in line with His word, then we are out of line. Period, no exceptions. We as Christians should not be entertained by the same things as the non-believing world. We cry out for more of God as we continue to embed ourselves deeper into the heart of this world. Then we wonder why He feels so distant…

I believe that God is challenging his people. Calling our bluff, if you will. Are we really willing to lay it ALL out on the line to follow him? Are we willing to give up all the things that keep us grounded in this world? The answers to our prayers to forge a deeper relationship with God lie in our obedience to him. We fall into step with the spirit of God when we learn to trust and believe him the first time. In his time, not our own, for he is our commander in chief.

War movies are my favorite to watch because I love the art and organization of war and seeing how tactical skill and knowledge lead to victory…and sometimes defeat. One of the most vital rules of battle is to follow the orders of the commander. A Lieutenant/Colonel is not given rank over a group of soldiers, but rather, earns their title by proving that they are capable of leading in battle. They have more knowledge and insight than the majors they reside over, which makes it imperative that their subordinates heed their guidance.

If a Lieutenant/Colonel yells to his platoon, “Take Cover!” and one of his/her majors asks why, exclaiming, “I don’t see the enemy!” it’s likely that that individual will either lose his/her life or become severely injured.

Likewise, if God tells us to stop, go, yes or no, we need to be in a position to act immediately. Christians are taking unnecessary fire from enemy lines because we are disobedient to our commander, which is ultimately an indication that we don’t trust Him. If God tells us to move out of the line of fire today and we don’t move until tomorrow, we will have already been burnt. But grace. Even in our disobedience, He is a good God, for He allows us to get burned without being incinerated. Still, why waste time nursing wounds that can be been avoided through obedience. We can say all the prayers, read the Bible in every translation, go to church three times a week, and still not get any closer to God because we don’t listen.

Before God can transition us to the next level, He has to trust us to trust Him. We cannot sustain ourselves in the place He has purposed for us. Giving up, “Gilmore Girls” wasn’t easy at first, but I’m glad I did it. I’ve given up a lot of worldly pleasures (some things I’m still working on letting go) this year in obedience to God. And I’ll be honest, it’s hard and it hurts. It sometimes feels like I’m being stripped of everything that makes me, me. But I guess that’s the point. The Christian journey isn’t about becoming more ourselves, but becoming less like us and more like Jesus.

When I first started working on this post, I typed up some questions related to obedience to get my writing juices flowing. Feel free to answer them in the context of your own life and walk with God. Share or not, but ponder please.

  1. Why is it important to obey the Holy Spirit at the time of prompting?
  2. What are the consequences of being disobedient to the Holy Spirit?
  3. Should God entrust us with inside information if we can’t follow His instructions?
  4. Is it possible that we wait as long as we do for our desires because God is waiting on us to show that we are capable of being obedient?

What’s Next?

Doesn’t it seem like every year goes by faster than the last? 2019 is encroaching upon us and I can hardly remember what went on in the last eleven months. The most memorable part of this year for me was the beginning. At midnight on January 1st of 2018, I was in the shower. I got out, fell asleep on the couch and I swear, it feels like I’m just now waking up.

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Seriously, where did the time go? I remember opting out of making any resolutions because I didn’t want to look failure in the face when (due to lack of effort) my “life goals” didn’t materialize. I figured I’d just do my best to be better. But if I’m being honest, I could’ve tried harder. Nonetheless, here I am.

That being said, if you’re reading this: congratulations, you’re still here too! We’ve still got time. How much, I can’t be certain, but carpe diem! I think sometimes we get too involved in our long-term goals. Truth is, we don’t know if we will ever get to kiss the brow of what we hope will one day be. Lately, death feels imminent. The axiom tomorrow isn’t promised has become more real than ever. There used to be a time when I couldn’t imagine death happening to me but those days have drifted away like a sweet aroma carried by the breeze.

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Normally, a topic so morbid would evoke a sense of sadness, but in this season of my life, it has awakened an urgency: an awareness, that my purpose can’t wait. It simply does not have the time. Every part of me recognizes the fragility of life and more than I fear not being successful in the eyes of the world (or myself), I panic at the thought of not completing the earthly assignment given to me by God.

This panic has prompted me to make a true effort to put my wants and dreams in perspective. I have to ask myself, do the things I want most align with the purpose God has given me? Not always. I’m currently fixated on moving out at the beginning of next year. The search for somewhere to live consumes a good portion of my day and when I’m not searching for places to stay, I’m busy making photo collages of home decor. It’s pretty bad. All the while, I’ve been given an assignment that I’ve been steadily neglecting.

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Next year, I’ll be making one resolution: Everyday make a conscious choice to take the next step toward my purpose. Whether it’s something as simple as a prayer, reading a novel, or writing the first sentence of my book, I want to step into my future, not leap. There’s invaluable worth in the baby steps. We get so caught up in dreaming “big” that we forget big was once small. So chill.

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In no way am I encouraging small aspirations. We serve a God who is not limited by any human notion and he has great plans for each of us. I just don’t want us to forget that great doesn’t necessarily mean big or famous, or wealthy, or a partner. It simply means surrendering to God’s plan for our lives and taking whatever step is next to fulfill it. That’s greatness. I think we’ll find that if we do this, we’ll gain more than we could’ve ever attained on our own.

So let’s forget about New Year’s resolutions: what can we do right now (and before the year is up) that would be a step in the direction of our God-given purpose?

I’ll go first. For me, it’s writing this entry. I didn’t feel like it and I’m not confident that it’s any good, but I’m going to post it anyway. Beside me are two notebooks, which contain outline drafts for my book, “90 Days of Reign.” I want to open them and work on my story but I can’t promise. Though it is, in fact, my next step and I don’t have forever…

 

 

 

 

 

Rescued by the Storm

I’m awake. Thankful as I am for another day, I had every intention of being asleep at this early hour. It’s a cool fifty-four-degree morning here in Calgary, Canada and the sun is in its final moments of rest. Us humans, however, are already up and at it, scrambling toward productivity. I can hear the grumbling acceleration of car engines dragging along the black road just outside my window. Headlights peek through the small opening in the sheer hotel curtains, and some undecipherable fluorescent green sign across the street is pulling my focus away from the task at hand.

I snoozed my alarm at 6 a.m. but couldn’t fall back asleep. I figured a little reading would help ease me back into unconsciousness so I opened the Bible. The Old Testament. I ended up in the first chapter of the book of Jonah. I’ve heard the story of the man who was swallowed by an enormous fish a million times, but I’m embarrassed to say that this morning may have been the first time I read it for myself.

As I read along, my eyes lingered on one word in chapter 1, verse 17:

Now the LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Provided?

I reread the verse trying to understand the use of a word meaning provision when Jonah’s situation couldn’t have seemed more hopeless. God made arrangements for Jonah to be swallowed by a sea creature? I needed clarity, so I continued my reading into chapter two.

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Our prayers to God generally include pleas for him to keep us away from ill-intentioned people and harmful circumstances, but not often enough do we pray for God to save us from ourselves. I love that I’m about to quote Whitney Houston, but something she said in an interview truly comes to mind. When asked what form of substance abuse was her biggest devil, she responded:

That would be me. It’s my deciding, it’s my heart, it’s what I want. And what I don’t want. Nobody makes me do anything I don’t want to do. It’s my decision. So the biggest devil is me. I’m either my best friend or my worst enemy. And that’s how I have to deal with it.

Love you Whitney.

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She was right, and although there is a very real enemy plotting against us, most of our problems are self-created through stubbornness and disobedience, just as it was with Jonah. God had given him a message to deliver to the people of Nineveh and he refused. He ran away from the will of the Lord and thus found himself tossed overboard a ship in a raging storm.

What I realize is that God’s idea of saving doesn’t always look like what we envision. God saved Jonah by sending a deadly storm and putting him in the belly of a sea creature. Personally, that’s not my idea of a life saver, but hey, I don’t make the rules. I’m sure Jonah would’ve appreciated dry land as a form of rescue.

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But the question is would he have responded to the call of God had God simply placed him on dry land? Sadly, I think not.

Jonah 2:1 says that “From inside the fish Jonah prayed…” That storm was Jonah’s opportunity for rescue, his moment to regain sight of his purpose. And in it, he cried out to God.

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Out of fear, we sometimes run from God’s plan for our lives. Decisions made in anxiety will always lead to disobedience. That rebellion is the catalyst to many of our storms. But what I love about God, is that he uses even our worst experiences to strengthen our relationship with him. Nothing we endure is wasted. He is a resourceful God, who uses the ugliest and most shameful parts of our lives to teach us and refine our faith in him. Because he is a merciful God, he provides a rescue in our storms. More amazingly, the storm itself is often the rescue.

Many times, it’s not until we hit our lowest point that we begin to heed God’s guidance. Most of my spiritual breakthroughs have come in the form of storms I thought I could weather. Whenever they proved to be too much for me, God has always been there, waiting to embrace me with open arms. And it’s in his presence that I was given the strength and faith to trust and obey his will.

The next time you’re in a storm, consider the possibility that you are also in the midst of your salvation. You must choose not to focus on your circumstance, but the God who has the power to pull you out. Trust that through the bad weather, God is realigning you to his will for your life. Remember that the Lord commanded the sea creature to vomit Jonah up. When it did Jonah had found the strength and courage to deliver God’s message to the city of Nineveh.

Know that when God allows your storm to spit you out, you won’t come out empty hearted. He will have prepared you for whatever challenge lies ahead.