Willing Obedience

A couple times a month several of the college-age girls in my church get together for a Bible study hosted by Tamra, a ridiculously awesome single lady who is in charge of the youth activities at church.

Yes, we also have small groups offered through the College and Career Bible study we have every week, but when given a choice between meeting with my assigned small group and going to Tam’s, I’ll pick Tam’s every time.

Whereas the other small group always talks doctrine and technical stuff, Tam knows how to keep it real. Sometimes we don’t need another eschatology discussion; we need a discussion on temptation, or patience, or the definition of “good”. I’ve learned a lot in the last couple of years since I joined Tam’s group.

At some point during every study Tamra will open up discussion to see how we are growing spiritually. I usually don’t say very much during this, and I didn’t say anything at all last week. She had asked us to name something we had learned since the last meeting.

It took me a while to think of something to say, and then I had not way of properly articulating it.

Yes, I’ve learned patience since the New Year. I’ve found that, true to previous deduction, I am really bad at developing good habits. I still have yet to establish a decent personal Bible study and prayer habit.

But overall, the most I’ve learned has been through my class.

Part of what we were talking about at this last Bible study was different types of people mentioned in Proverbs (the Fool, the Simple, the Scorner, and the Wise) and how those people have to be approached differently when it comes to instruction and correction.

It was not only a time of study, but of evaluation – personal and otherwise. I could define myself within those definitions, and I could also name kids in my classes who are Simple, Scorners, and Fools, and even a few who are wise.

While this kind of introspection can be painful because it requires us to own up to our faults and to challenge what we used to excuse away as quirks, I’ve found it can also be used as a tool. I’ve been taking my kinds through a word study on Obedience since the first (convenient, I know, but I’m trying to develop a good foundation for the year). We’ve defined obedience and talked about why we need to obey. This week we’ll be talking about how we obey.

When I looked up “obedience” in the dictionary, I found that it is basically heeding and complying with the dictates of authority, especially willingly. The focus there is on the “willingly” part.

The Bible story for this is out of Numbers 20, where God tells Moses to speak to the rock to get water for the thirsty murmuring Israelites and Moses strikes the rock instead. Twice. Back in Exodus, God had told Moses to strike another rock, but this time He said speak. What I’m hoping the kids will get out of this is that the key to obeying is listening to all of the instructions instead of assuming we already know what to do.

About there in the lesson I paused. This sounded familiar.

And here’s where the introspection comes in, which I did a lot of when I wrote my resume. I’ve been using myself as an example for my kids a lot lately. I’m not sure if it’s good to show such a fallible adult to 1st graders, but I’m going with it.

Back at my old job, I got called out a lot after the first 6 months for making mistakes that I should have known better than to make. Eventually my boss made me look her in the eye while she gave me her theory: I kept interrupting her and my other boss halfway through instructions, missing the important parts, and filling in the gaps with random guesses. The result was that I didn’t actually know what I was doing.

Until then, I hadn’t realized I was doing it. Part of me was just wanting to show I was listening, so I filled every pause with “Okay” and “Uh-huh” while looking at my computer screen out of the corner of my eye. But another part of my brain meant those “Uh-huh”s as, “I can figure this out on my own. This is easy. I don’t need to be told how to do this.”

Maybe Moses was just looking for a way to vent his frustration at the crowd of murmuring ingrates who kept forgetting all God had done for them. Maybe he was so fuming mad that God directed him to a rock and he assumed it was going to go down like last time. Whatever the cause – be it annoyance or blatant arrogance – he disobeyed God’s specific instructions and got punished for it.

And thus I find myself learning as much and more as I am giving my class. Maybe one of the reasons God directed me to this teaching position was to weasel me into being required to study my Bible when before I always pushed it aside and forgot about it. Maybe that’s part of the reason He moved me to step down from my job for several months.

Because I am finally realizing that I have to be willing to be really useful. Praying and studying out of duty with a reluctant heart won’t get me far, but actually applying myself because I have these little souls under my care and I want to nurture them…. That’s where I start reaping some benefits.


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