Climbing in Obedience

29861If you remember my laws and commands and obey them, I will give you rains at the right season; the land will produce crops, and the trees of the field will produce their fruit. Your threshing will continue until the grape harvest, and your grape harvest will continue until it is time to plant. Then you will have plenty to eat and live safely in your land. Leviticus 26:3-5

There’s something consistent through every spiritual season of life: obedience. Obedience impacts our mountaintop experiences and our dumpster-diving experiences. Obedience doesn’t magically insure a specific result based on our human expectations and standards. We can’t treat obedience as a hoop we’ll jump through with a guaranteed reward waiting on the other side. However, obedience will always, without fail, draw us closer to God.

When I spoke at a women’s retreat at a center nestled among the Appalachians, I enjoyed several days of breath-taking scenery, including vibrant green trees often skirted in mist. A friend and I trekked to a lookout point one morning, and it was well worth the climb. I immediately decided I’d take another route by myself the next day. I wondered how many miles I could see from a higher vantage point. When the next day arrived, my schedule was hectic, and the time in which I thought I could easily fit in a short hike quickly began to fill with responsibilities. But God was beckoning me to spend some time with him. Because I was expected to soon be encouraging a large group of women, helping them laugh with each other and dance in God’s presence, I knew that if I kept on my own course, I’d be zapped of energy and enthusiasm. As a guest, I had been invited to ride into town for a scrumptious treat, but I apologetically said “no” in order to say “yes” to God. And I hiked to the lookout point I longed to visit.

The climb was steep. It reminded me of how being obedient to God isn’t easy. Obedience challenges me, and I do better with it when I’m well-equipped. For hiking, my map and water are musts. For obedience, constant communication with God through his Word, prayer, and worship are musts. As I climbed, I took each step for him. When I stopped to take a drink, I savored God’s words to me. When I heard the sounds of the hills, I listened for his voice. When I reached the top and marveled again at the complexity and beauty of his creation, I raised my face to his in worship.

The hike down was just as challenging, both physically and spiritually, God reminded me that I can go too fast sometimes and get caught up in the rush of everyday life. I was walking back to my obligations and daily life but with renewed purpose. Only God knew the challenges waiting for me at the bottom of that mountain top, but I sure am thankful I chose obedience, so he could prepare me in his providential way. Immediately following my mountaintop experience, I was literally dumpster-diving. When I returned to set up the stage and displays, I discovered retreat center staff had mistakenly discarded every box full of my supplies, and placing them in the dumpster. The next two hours were filled with problem-solving. Handling the situation with grace was difficult, but I was certainly thankful for the experience I’d just had with God. I’m glad I chose obedience in preparation for continued obedience through a difficult situation.

Send me your light and truth to guide me. Let them lead me to your holy mountain, to where you live. Psalm 43:3

Just because I was obedient through one situation didn’t assure the next situation would go smoothly. Just because you follow God’s directions doesn’t mean you’ll enter an expressway with no distractions, obstacles and detours. Obedience insures you’re in God’s will, but life continues to be messy because it’s life on earth, not life in heaven. We can expect life to be perfect on earth, but it’s not going to be. We can expect life to be predictable on earth, but it’s not going to be. We can expect life to fit into the structure we’ve created by our assumptions, dreams, and limited understanding, but it’s not going to fit. However, there is consistency. God has all understanding of each of our lives, including intricacies and details we can’t even imagine. At the same time, he has complete understanding of how all of those details fit together into the grand view of his creation and how everything will work together in a kingdom-focused, purposeful way.

How are you challenged and encouraged by God’s consistency?

What experiences of obedience (or lack of obedience) have taught you about the character of God?

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