Monday, July 21, 2008


"Come here, John. John, come here. John. JOHN, COME HERE!!!"

John does not always obey us quickly (or at all). Sometimes, of course, he will do what we ask -- stop touching the CDs; give the pen to Mama; stop hitting Mama with the truck.

But when I give him an order and he does not obey me, then I know that the times he obeys are not because he has an obedient spirit -- it's because what I'm asking him is not too onerous, in his mind. Perhaps it's what he wants to do anyway. So 50% obedience (I'm being generous here) is, to me, no obedience at all, because it only takes one incident of disobedience for me to know that John thinks he knows better than I do what is best for him to do.

I used to think it was unfair for the Bible to say that whoever breaks one little part of the law is guilty of breaking it all (James 2:10; see also Matt. 5:19). Now that I have a child, I am reminded every day that if I'm not rebelling against God at this moment it's just because what he requires of me is not too onerous, in my mind; or, sometimes, I obey because I choose to believe that God knows better than I do. Sometimes, though, I do still disobey, and now I see that my sin is as great as if I had broken every one of God's commands.

Fortunately he is in the business of loving and redeeming rebellious souls. "While we were enemies, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

submission to God

Finish this sentence:

"The world would be a better place if only _______________ ."

What did you think of? I'm guessing that you did not first think of something you have direct control over.

If God reigns, then shouldn't we believe that the world is actually exactly as it should be, except for things we can change?

Feel free to disagree with me. I'm not sure it's quite as stark as that. But I know I, for one, err too much on the side of being dissatisfied with people, jobs, illnesses, churches, whatever. It's hard to trust God to make all things work for good when some things are so apparently bad.

After reading my post on biblical submission, Michael reminded me that during our dance lessons, I had a hard time following not only when Michael led me, but also the one or two times I danced with our instructor. He dances wonderfully -- graceful, smooth -- and for no good reason I could not relax and follow his lead. "Stop leading," he'd say. I knew he wasn't making any mistakes. But being led doesn't come naturally to me.

Just as dancing with Michael works for me as a metaphor for biblical submission in marriage, dancing with the instructor seems like a good image for submission to God. I know he's doing everything right -- but it's hard to trust him. When I complain about things that seem wrong to me but I can't affect, I suspect that I'm trying to lead God instead of letting him lead me. It takes humility to be led. I want the dance, including the other dancers, to do things right (i.e. my way). God seems to be more interested in my submission to him than in the dance going perfectly.

I vaguely recall from dance lessons that no matter what my partner did -- spin me out, swing me around -- my role stayed pretty much the same: step, rock, step. It seemed to go more smoothly if I focused on the rhythm of my steps instead of on where my partner led me. What steps should I focus on while God leads me?

Recently God has thrown a friend of mine for a loop. Her husband is in the hospital with a brain tumor. This morning the doctor performed a biopsy on it; they won't have the results for another 3 to 5 days. "I'm just not ready for this," she keeps saying. Her friends and I remind her: trust God. Pray. Let others help you and love you. I think that these things are the basic steps to follow, repeatedly, to enter into the rhythm as the true Lord of the Dance leads us.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Biblical submission

When Michael and I were newlyweds, we took a dance class at Richland. I can't remember now if we learned East Coast or West Coast swing, but one lesson is still vivid.

Michael and I were doing a difficult (for us) move, and he didn't quite have it right. I did my part correctly and tried to show him what he should be doing. (We actually had a lot of these little struggles during these lesssons.) The instructor came up to us and told ME that I was at fault -- because I was not following Michael's lead. "It doesn't matter whether he's doing the proper steps. You need to let him lead you."

This seems to me like a good metaphor for that really-hard-to-understand concept of Biblical submission. Obviously (I think) women don't have to submit to truly egregious things like abuse or sexual sin. But my dance lesson reminds me of what 1 Peter 3 says about wives being subject to their husbands: "so that even if some [husbands] do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives -- when they see your respectful and pure conduct" (v. 1b, 2).

It's so hard to keep from saying a word! But important: "let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious" (v. 4). To me, that description sounds like the opposite of a woman leading her husband, even if she's right.

John loves "Green Eggs and Ham" -- he frequently asks for "Hammie" -- and I can identify a bit with I-am-Sam, who just won't stop pushing those green eggs and ham on the other guy. What a nag! Even though he's right! The book vindicates his persistence; but it's not exactly the role I want to take in my marriage.

I think that when I try to lead Michael -- not just tell him what I think, but actively try to persuade him, especially in something that really is his business not mine -- I do so because I am afraid that something bad will happen. Peter tells us to follow the example of Sarah, who "obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening" (v. 6).

In dancing, it is more important that the partners are doing the same thing than that they are following the steps perfectly. I suspect that in marriage too, the most important thing is not for me to focus on whether my husband is making all the right moves, but to focus on how well I am following him, and trust God to lead us both in the right direction. And dancing is a lot more fun when you're dancing with, not against, your partner.