Sunday morning came again with its usual holy and mundane mess. Trying to wrestle wiggly boys into button-up shirts. Chasing the baby around to change her diaper. Smooshing and combing and gelling that middle-little’s persistent cowlick. Our service starts at 8:15, and we live quite a long way from church. We are chronically late. Often we sneak in just before the entrance of the cross. Usually I’m embarrassedly trying not to make eye contact with the pastors waiting in the foyer.
I come to Sunday service with so many things whirling inside and outside. On this particular Sunday, part of the way through the service the congregation began to sing “Trust and Obey.”
I admit I’ve never had much of an affinity for this particular hymn. It was one of my mom’s favorites. But I was a rather suspicious and incompliant child, so I figured the main reason she liked it was some kind of passive-aggressive attempt to make me more obedient. (I know better now, Mom, don’t worry.) I hadn’t really given much thought to the words before.
When we walk with the Lord
in the light of his word,
what a glory he sheds on our way!
While we do his good will,
he abides with us still,
and with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
Not a burden we bear,
not a sorrow we share,
but our toil he doth richly repay;
not a grief or a loss,
not a frown or a cross,
but is blest if we trust and obey.
But we never can prove
the delights of his love
until all on the altar we lay;
for the favor he shows,
for the joy he bestows,
are for them who will trust and obey.
Then in fellowship sweet
we will sit at his feet,
or we’ll walk by his side in the way;
what he says we will do,
where he sends we will go;
never fear, only trust and obey.
Those words! I still don’t love the tune that much, but those words are profound.
They were just what I needed.
I can be so driven by results.
The voices in my head clamor that I need to be a perfect parent. I need to make sure my kids have no screen time, plenty of fresh air and unstructured play, chores, independence, healthy whole foods, Bible time, reading aloud, hugs and kisses and words of affirmation, no raised voices, no impatience, beautiful aesthetic atmosphere . . . and if I do these things surely, surely they will become spotless followers of Christ.
The voices in my head say, “Why write? You’ll never be published. Why are you getting up before the kids and squeezing in a few paragraphs here and there when no one will ever read it or care about it? You’re wasting your time. Why would anyone want to read the things you write anyways, because you’re every bit as much of a confused sinner as anyone else. Do something that will make money or be successful.”
The voices in my head say, “You practice hospitality, but people don’t really like you. They know how awkward and messy you are inside. See those pictures of that thing you didn’t get invited to? Stop inviting people over and sending texts and writing letters. It doesn’t do any good.”
The voices in my head say, “You’re a fitness failure because you still look like a mom of three with big thighs and jiggly love-handles.” Or, “Give up trying to form that Artists’ Group. Nobody will come.” “Quit. Don’t risk failure. Don’t let your flaws be seen.”
But the voice of God says, “Trust. Obey.”
The voice of God says, “Maybe all these things you hope will happen really are pipe dreams. Maybe all you will do is fall on your face – but maybe that’s where you will honor me. Maybe your kids will still wander and lose sight of the Truth some day. Maybe you won’t have the rich community of friends or artists you envision. Maybe you’ll never hold a book of your own in your hands. Obey anyways. I didn’t command you to be successful. I have commanded you to trust and obey.”
Trust – not that all my dreams will come true and all my endeavors will be successful – but trust that His ways are higher than my ways. Trust that even the flaws can be redeemed and made beautiful.
And obey. Show up for my kids again tomorrow, regardless of how I feel, and regardless of today’s failures.
Obey. Write again. And again. And again. Not for the sake of results, but for the sake of obedience. Write because I’ve known since elementary school, when I carried that little purple and black notebook everywhere writing stories and poems, that God made me a writer. He may not have made me to be a “successful” writer, but the end-results are not my concern. Obedience is.
Obey. Show up again to sweat and do my best. Show up again for a friend in need of a meal or a ride or a text or a prayer. Show up again and again. Not for results – not to be a size two or to get friendship given to me in return. But just show up to obey, to give as Christ has commanded me to give, to honor God in all things.
How much peace comes from that little command! When I’m driven by the results, I quickly become stressed and weighed-down. It’s debilitating to have my hopes pinned on being a success, when my “success” is not in my power to control.
But all things at all times and in all places are in God’s hands. Even the failures.
Never fear. Only trust and obey.