By Erika Olson
(This post is based on a talk that I gave at our weekly Mission Formation prayer meeting a few weeks ago.)
So often in my life, I feel like God stalks me. It’s usually with a common theme; I call them spiritual two-by-fours. God knows that I need something and He doesn’t stop pursuing me until I get it. So He puts this theme everywhere: in my personal prayer, in community prayer, in homilies, in the grocery store – wherever He knows that I need to see it.
Recently, the theme that He has been calling me deeper into is Obedience. I believe that understanding the root of a word helps shed light on that word, and what God is trying to tell me through that word. Like any other college graduate, I “googled” what the word Obedience meant. Turns out, it comes from the Latin ob (towards) and audere (to hear); to hear towards something. What I took that to mean is that upon hearing or discovering something, we must “incline” ourselves towards that message, we must submit ourselves to the message of authority.
This year has been one of Trust, Obedience and Humility for me. I left full-time foreign missions to work in the office here at Family Missions Company because I needed to pay student loans and, most importantly, because I felt God calling me to serve as the Long Term Missions Coordinator. I am blessed more and more each day to live this life of full service to the Gospel! However, that does not mean that it is easy each day to rise, turn to the Lord and offer Him all of my plans, ambitions, dreams, and desires and do only what He asks.
This is the kind of obedience I am talking about; not the I-go-to-Church-every-Sunday and don’t-eat-meat-on-Fridays, Ten-Commandments kind of obedience. Of course, obedience in this sense has an important role in our lives. Jesus says, “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones” (Luke 16:10). However, if our desire to follow Jesus stops at physical things like that, my concern is that our faith remains something that we check off on our things to do list instead of being a living, saving relationship with a Person. He also says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
One thing that has struck me is how crucial Humility is to obeying the Lord. St. Francis of Assisi says, “What we are before God, that we are and nothing else.” I must come before God and allow Him to tell me that He created me with a perfect plan, that He does not make mistakes, that I am His beloved daughter. I also acknowledge that I am not perfect, that I am broken and that I need Him – nothing more and nothing less. My prayer becomes “I truly believe that Your will is better, is perfect for me.” I strive to trust Him completely with my WHOLE life, knowing that His designs are far beyond anything I could ever think of for myself.
Christ is the ultimate example of obedience to the will of the Father, therefore we must:
Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11, emphasis added)
Through Christ’s death, through His obedience to the will of the Father, SALVATION came to the world. This is in opposition to what happened at the Fall, when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God’s word and followed their own will. Chaos came into the world and humanity has felt the effects ever since. We are not left in that chaotic confusion, but in Jesus, the Prince of Peace, we are shown the abundant fruit of obedience to the Will of the Father. What is it that we as missionaries work towards, if not for “all men to be saved and to com to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3)? He calls me daily to die to myself in surrender to the will of the Father, so that the Name of Jesus would be exalted and glorified! In a world that is so torn apart by people only focusing on their own needs, wants, desires, and instant gratifications, this is such a counter-cultural message. Yet it is a message that brings true joy. In surrendering to the will of the Father I know that I am no longer in control. In choosing to be obedient to His will, His commandments, I know that He has promised me an inheritance that is far beyond anything I could ever ask for or imagine!
During my first year of missions, we were in Germany, driving down the highway and a group of young adults was walking on the side of the road lugging their suitcases behind them because their car had broken down. I felt in my heart a desire to stop, but quickly silenced that voice with all the reasons not to stop: It could be dangerous. I’m sure someone else will stop. I don’t want to burden our hosts to think I’m crazy, (even though we had plenty of space in the big Volkswagon van we were driving and our hosts were also missionaries). The next day, the missionary who was driving shared that she had the same desire to stop, but ignored it. I choose to believe that God had something good in store for those young people, but it also broke my heart to go to prayer and tell the Lord that I was sorry for not obeying Him. I loathed that feeling of not giving all that I had to the mission at hand, of feeling as though I had held back something from the Lord, when He has never held back from me giving His last breath for my salvation.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta told her sisters, “Deny Him nothing.” I do not want to walk away from the mission at hand, from a conversation, a home-visit, a task on my desk in the office, wishing that I had served better or more. I want to pour myself out, to humble myself in obedience to God, trusting that His Divine and Providential Will is greater than anything I could ever plan for myself.
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