The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 13: Joy in Obedience (1 of 3)
Blessed are all who fear the Lord,
who walk in obedience to him.
–Psalm 128:1 (NIV)
My obedience to what I know to be right brings me joy. My disobedience to what I know is right brings me misery.
–Matthew Kelly, A Call to Joy, page 154
“Why are you so mean to me?!” Hannah yelled as she jumped out of her booster seat and stomped to her bedroom. “This just hasn’t been a good day!” Slam! The door smashing into the doorframe shook the house. Mary looked at me. I shrugged and shook my head. We both took another gulp of wine and continued eating in silence. Welcome to dinnertime at the Hughes house, where getting our six-year-old to leave the nutritionally-barren desert of meat, cheese, and Ranch dressing and venture into the verdant garden of rice, potatoes, and anything colored green is like getting our dogs to quit barking at jackrabbits: it’s been, uh, challenging.
For the most part, our household is a sanctuary of fun, learning, and family time, but when disobedience sailed in on the waves of Hannah’s blooming personality, peace has jumped overboard on more than one occasion. Some call it being “strong-willed.” Mary and I call it “Pour me another glass of wine.” First came the flat-out “No,” followed by copious applications of timeout. As the petals of Hannah’s personality continued to unfold, however, the ubiquitous “Why?” replaced “No.” Now acknowledgement of our imperatives results in one of three responses: “Yes,” deliberate ignoring, or nuclear meltdown.
“What did we do?” Mary asked as we finished dinner to the accompaniment of muffled crying coming from Hannah’s bedroom.
“Nothing,” I replied. “I blame Eve.” And, indeed, isn’t that where all this disobedience stuff started? You have to admit, Adam and Eve had it pretty good at the beginning. They walked with God, talked with God, hung out with God, and tended the Garden of Eden. Shoot, they even ran around naked without having to worry about what the neighbors thought! God provided for all their needs and all He asked from them in return was to keep their paws off the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This was the first application of the well-known parental utterance, “Don’t touch the hot stove.” God desired worship, relationship, and obedience, and He lavished on Adam and Eve pleasure and every good thing. And what did our ancestral parents do? Eve caved in to a talking serpent. Just like we still do today. Why? Because we want to be in control. Some things never change.
Time and again Mary and I have explained to Hannah the difference between discipline and flat-out meanness in response to her question “Why are you so mean to me?” As she’s gotten older, her tendency to do as she’s told rather than blatantly disobeying us is improving, but, like her parents, she still clutches the fruit of the Fall. “If you’d only obey us,” we’ve pleaded, “we’d never have to spank your bottom or put you in timeout or yell at you.” Blessed peace would rest on our household, and Mary and I would be belting out Hosannas alongside the choirs of angels singing in blessed reverence. Nevertheless, Hannah still pushes against our will. Pride certainly goeth before the fall. And the spanking spoon. And timeout. And the daddy voice . . . .
When God speaks, He expects His people to obey, and the primary source of His commands and His will for us is Scripture. “If God tells you to do something, do it!” I’ve been told many times. Like the old E.F. Hutton commercials, when God talks, people need to listen! Why? Because God doesn’t just speak to hear Himself talk, like we sometimes do. No, when God tells us to do something, whether it’s through His word, other people, or directly through His Spirit, it’s for our own good. When we obey God, we honor Him. When we act on His directives, commands, and precepts, we glorify Him.
This very book is the result of obedience; God told me to write it, so I did. Despite the fact I lived in ignorance of the true meaning of joy and its very real and very practical manifestation as a fruit of the Holy Spirit, I obeyed God’s directive, stepped out in faith, and started researching and writing this work. Throughout this journey I’ve witnessed miracles resulting from obeying God’s commands. Despite leaving a well-paying job with a relatively secure future, God the Provider has “somehow” maintained my family’s financial well-being, leaving little doubt He’s managing all aspects of my new career. Despite my ignorance of the subject of joy, God has directed me to books, blogs, websites, and other folks living joy day-to-day, revealing bit-by-bit the potential of existing in a state of permanent joy despite circumstances. Don’t get me wrong, living a life of obedience to the Father sometimes isn’t easy–that darned old flesh still seems to get in the way–but I move forward knowing it’s what I’m being called to do. Indeed, it’s what we’re all being called to do.
Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes