January 1, 2014
Word for 2014
How I hate that word.
But I hate its concomitants even more—obedience is especially repugnant.
Oh, I know these are godly qualities and such, and the marks of faithful souls. But that doesn’t take away my distaste for the terminology and the baggage that seems to hang off them, swinging in the wind.
When I close my eyes and imagine “obedience,” I see a sullen child, a spanked backside, dragging feet.
Or, conversely, I see Little Mr. Goody Two-Shoes of pukingly didactic children’s literature from the 50’s (or 70’s) (or 80’s), he with the wide Crest smile and an eagerness to please every adult figure in his life, a Johnny-jump-up ready to hop-to and obey.
I’ve been having serious conversations around surrender and obedience and trust for well over a year now. Trust underlies all of these other notions, of course—trust that whoever is doing the commanding has my best interests at heart. That trust has been in scarce supply with me. And therefore, obedience and surrender are also battleground concepts for me.
I know I should trust God. He’s the Maker, the Creator, the King, thewaythetruththelife, etc. I’m not making light of God’s identity and omnipotence. I just know these things, very well. Since childhood.
God is scary. God is not safe. God asks people to do very frightening things. God tests people. God gets angry and punishes people.
He is not a tame lion.
And so trust feels very unsafe.
I have spent the better part of three years now making a study of the softer side of God. I don’t mean that to be mushy. I don’t mean to suggest that I disbelieve in the justice, righteousness, perfection, and judgment side of God. I just can’t focus on those qualities right now. They have been the only side of God I’ve known, for much too long.
I can’t get enough of his love, his mercy, his grace, his loving-kindness, his “thoughts of peace and not of evil.”* I can’t get enough of the fuzzy lion, Aslan, who frolics with little girls in the green grass, who gently blows children across great chasms on his breath, who whispers “courage, dear heart” to frightened little girls in the dark.
When I think of the word “surrender” now, I try to envision Dory, the short-term memory-challenged blue fish in Pixar’s Finding Nemo.
When Dory and Marlin get accidentally sucked up by a whale, and they are holding onto the baleen to avoid being swallowed, Dory “speaks whale” and receives instructions. The instructions are to “let go.” Marlin only hears Dory making silly swoopy vocalizations, and of course he distrusts the whale, who clearly only wants extra food in its belly.
In the face of Marlin’s disbelief, panic, and refusal to comply, Dory simply shrugs her fishy shoulders and lets go. She drops and is ejected safely through the whale’s blowhole.
Marlin ends up being jarred loose anyway and is also safely blown clear.
They both ended up in the same place. Dory just gave in and had an easier time of it. Marlin suffered the whole way due to his fear and stubborn resistance. If he had let go, he might have had a little more fun.
If I’m going to end up in the same place anyway, maybe I should smooth the process by shrugging my own fishy shoulders and letting go, surrendering to the irresistible force, giving him a chance to make good on his promises.
Surrender, huh? Fine, then…