I felt like a cat chasing my own tail. The rain pounded outside the cafe and the sky took flash photography of the earth below while the thunder rumbled the grey skies. There was a draft creeping in and swirling around our feet and we were talking about obedience.
The grit-your-teeth kind that you can only learn about from someone who is paralyzed. It's true - you should try it. Read a paragraph or a book by Joni Eareckson Tada and then try to have the same grumbling attitude about obedience. Feels way different, way wrong.
So, we read about a middle-of-the-night fight where Tada woke up in a sweat battling familiar fears of anxiety and claustrophobia and panic. She could reach for pills or wake up her husband or just lay in agony. Or believe.
She spoke a simple verse she had hidden in her heart long ago, "whispering the Word of God into [her] anxious heart,"
Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget your law. (Psalm 119:153, ESV)
And my friend and I sat there spinning in circles to chase the wonder. This quadriplegic woman submitted in obedience by claiming the promises of God. Her obedience was the physical act of believing God to be who He says He is in the midst of her middle-of-the-night fight.
God gives grace to believe and it is only in believing that we can obey.
When we walk out the steps of right belief in God, our disastrous moments can be obedient moments of submission - our stranded in the middle of certain, paralyzing death stories can be memoirs of deliverance.
And in obeying (read also: in believing) God did look on her affliction and delivered her, right there in the midst of her paralyzed battle.
I'm not sure how many times I will have to learn before the wonder wears off, hopefully never. Our believing obedience brings about breathtaking reward. God has never broken a promise. As he commands our obedience to His Word, He promises to provide a way for the obedience. He promises to deliver us. He promises.
The Lord of all creation is making you promises. And His promises always end in deliverance for His children. Always. But to enjoy the deliverance, we must believe.
The disciples had their own in-the-middle-of-the-night fright during a crazy storm that rocked their boat and their belief.
And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” (Matthew 8:23-27, ESV)
Jesus calls attention to their fear and reveals their lack of faith - they needed to examine their belief about who Jesus was and what He was capable of accomplishing. If He really was God, then believing meant trusting and trusting meant calm in the middle of calamity. The lesson here is not that God will stop the wind and waves every time we feel like we're going under. The lesson is that our belief and trust in the Lord will place one obedient foot in front of the other as the storm swells around us.
Because God is a promise keeper and He will deliver us.
The believing does not always feel like a lazy Sunday afternoon because sometimes it feels like a wrestling match. Sometimes it feels like your throat is closing in and no option looks good, especially when you are fighting for air. But in those times, God is the same.
He promises deliverance and our obedience is the walking out of our belief that He will come through.
Because He will come through. And do you see now why we chase our tails? I don't know where the goodness starts and ends. There is delight in it all, even the wrestling. Because He will overcome and bless those suffering as they are shaped more into the image of His Son.
grace > believing > obedience > reward > believing > grace
We hold on tight to the Love He swore. And as we hold on, we obey.
My friend and I are reading through voices of the true woman movement: A Call to the Counter-Revolution and Joni Eareckson Tada wrote chapter 7, which is what inspired this post (and the beautiful storm all day long). But seriously, pick up anything from this woman and you will be inspired.