Asking to discuss simplicity and God’s grace has never been an arduous task. This reasoning stems from the many life experiences behind me and with me now. The ones that expressed gentleness, those that were blatantly cruel, others transpired by the inconsiderate, the privileged, and the entitled, and back again to the experiences of kindness given and received.
I’ve met people who used their traumatic experiences as excuses to treat others disrespectfully—to treat me disrespectfully. And I’ve spent time with kind souls who only choose to use their harrowing life events to help members of our society. These are the people I enjoy spending time with—those who show hope.
It takes faith to be consistently connected to hope, just as it takes dedication to be connected to specific groups of people or even one or two individuals. Within the trusting phase, it is often noted that hurdles will occur. Differences are prevalent in discussions, tests by the tongue are evident, silence produces a deafening sound, observations from afar break down trust, and conversations build it up again. Yes, through our compliance to Jesus’ instructions, “And he said to him ‘You shall love your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22 vv. 37-39) it is my thought; these two precise commandments can often restore our fidelity and dedication to a mutual understanding.
But how can a relationship where there are red flags be restored? I think back now on a conversation I had with a new friend in May of this year. As a recent attendee of her church, I’ll never forget how she took it out of her way to come over to meet me. She made sure I met her husband, too, to let me know that I could always call on them. Many people in this church did that, and they continue to do so. And, as these greetings remain, I do not shy away from them. As I was getting ready for Sunday school this week, I thought about how much my heart remains open to welcoming new people. It’s remarkable to experience God’s teachings firsthand, just like those of my core faith.
So, at our coffee/teatime back in May, I felt safe speaking about some of the issues I was currently faced with. Issues about friendships and why I thought it so difficult to really befriend a few people in and out of my life, and this of my own doing. Of why I found it a bit overwhelming when my thoughts and ideas were being used to enhance the pockets, ratings, or brand of some of these people. Of why I was cautious and overly suspicious. Of why I wasn’t trusting God in these matters. This conversation was so easy, and I felt as though I had known this friend for more years than just six weeks. Of course, with my gift of discernment, I thought some more.
I thought of why it was so easy to speak to her and a few other women in this new church without any fear of being robbed of ideas and knowledge. And it did not take me too long to recognize why. These women are obedient to God, as I try earnestly to be. In obedience, I sought out a place of safety where I could truly understand and intertwine this chosen life of Christianity. A place where women in the church are honored as leaders who guide and teach other women. Who are open to being eldered and to nourish through adherence to Jesus. It’s good to be in a place where we recognize that we remain sinners, while making every effort to be dutiful to God.
In her thoughts and beautiful essay on obedience concerning marriage and other life events, Noraan Voll wrote this:
“Obedience meant embracing stillness, creating the quiet and detachment in which “listening under” becomes possible. I have learned that obedience is the bridle that guides, the keel that steadies, the wing that lifts, the sure map that shows the trusted way.”
So how are you with obedience to God? How are things flowing for you? Are you adhering to an obedience to the world or to God? Do you believe in the entire Bible or just the parts that make you feel good about your achievements? Are you taking time to slow down to really get what God is telling you? What does He require of you?
These are questions I ask myself, and the same I ask of you. Next week I’ll look at obedience and thankfulness a wee bit. And now that I consider the first line of this reflection, I see how simplicity and grace come much easier when I am obedient to God. I don’t have to try so hard for recognition. I see how people are interested in knowing me, the real me and the simple me. Me who, through prayer, may or may not accomplish the construct of grace every time, but who pick myself up to remain in God’s guidance.
“Obedience is the key that opens every door.” -C.S. Lewis.
If repeated efforts seem fruitless. Let’s consider whether we are staying obedient to God’s Complete Word, to include the commandments of Jesus.
It is exceedingly difficult to know if I’ll ever try to understand those friendships I mentioned. The ones I’ve held such great caution about. Or if I’ll ever try to nurture them again. Honestly, my intuition tells me to be thankful for those now in my life. For the people who offer me great trust. But, yet still, I wonder if there was complete trust in those, I walked away from. If I met trust and felt trust, I consider the good they could have done with the Spirit as everlasting guide.
Hmmm! I wonder…
But wondering what may have come of those friendships would cause me to look back. Salt preserves! Jesus tells us to be salt and light (Matt. 5 v. 13). Salt deposits on the Dea Sea offer many healing minerals too. But sometimes looking back will not take us forward. Like Lot’s wife, looking back can be detrimental to our very being (see. Genesis 19 vv. 23-26; Luke 17 vv. 27-38).
In and for all this, I pray.
Growing together, from the inside and out!
Scripture is taken from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV). 2001. Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.
Voll, N. (2022). The adventure of obedience. Plough (33). Pg, 76