Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lengths & Sameness

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction - It's the title of a book written by Eugene Peterson well over 20 years ago; a title that itself stirs my imagination.
What is it about the quick fix that enamors us? Like most folks, I wiggle & squirm when trouble comes to call - - be it personal trouble, or the ugly stuff that plays out on a larger scale, like in governments or institutions or families. I can see vividly and readily what is wrong, and often I have an answer. If not an answer, I certainly never come up short on the side of running rhetoric or commentary.
And then my thoughts return to the fact that I'm not summoned to fix things, quickly or otherwise. I'm summoned to a long obedience, an obedience that does not promise comfort, or even understanding for that matter. It's an obedience that does promise a prosperity of soul. It promises refining that has the look and feel of character-building.
" ... we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." Romans 5:3-5
I think I can honestly say that "rejoicing in sufferings" is not the stuff for which I yearn. Such an obedience takes a long, long time as well as a sustained effort towards a fixed end, a goal. It requires that I long far more for character development than comfort (aka painlessness).
Don't get me wrong. I don't mean to imply that we start seeking ways in which to suffer. That's morbid - - and simply one more "work" by which we can claim some special position. No, I'm merely emphasizing the value of obedience; and sustained obedience at that!
In the book, Eugene Peterson writes:
"A person has to be thoroughly disgusted with the way things are to find the motivation to set out on the Christian way. As long as we think that the next election might eliminate crime and establish justice or another scientific breakthrough might save the environment or another pay raise might push us over the edge of anxiety into a life of tranquility, we are not likely to risk the arduous uncertainties of the life of faith."
Sound familiar?
" ... whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:7-14
Forgetting what is behind, I step intentionally towards the long obedience - - at times straining and pressing forward in that same direction. No turning back.


Technonana said...

Whew... preach on my sista!!
Gotta keep running the race!!

Andrea said...

When suffering, I must look toward the heavens. I, too hate suffering, but it is during those times I have grown closest to my Heavenly Father. If it were up to me, I would never sign up for suffering, but in its season I must keep my focus.
Focus on the LORD...this is where it gets tough when I am in despair! It is easy for me to post this comment today while I gaze upon the ocean during a wonderful vacation, but when despair comes I will have to continually remind myself of these truths.
Thank you for posting today. It reminds me to keep my heart readied for what is ahead.

Terri Tiffany said...

I must be in the long obedience for sure but I get what you are saying. I am learning more about my walk with Christ these past two years than I ever have before. I wanted the quick fixes but have found that there are none. Only turning to God and waiting on his plan.

Denise @ A Sacred Longing said...

A long obedience with daily choices and consequences. Sometimes I can focus on the distant end. Other times, I can go no farther than the next moment.


a portland granny said...

Elizabeth Elliot wrote in one of her books something like this, "We are only promised light for the next step on our paths...." and how often I want to see the next block of my walk! As I get older I am constantly reminded that "we have a moment by moment walk with a moment by moment Lord." (David Needhem)

And so we choose to obey in trying circumstances because we know the One Who holds our hand tightly as we move forward.

Thanks for the words, today, Sister Sassy Granny!

rachel said...

Great Word Here! It ministered to me a lot!

christy rose said...

Kathleen, The comment from Rachel was actually from me. I was logged in under my daughter's account. Sorry

Rosezilla said...

This is so true. It takes time to build trust, and faith and a habit of obedience. It takes time to build a marriage. I think a lot of people get discouraged because they think it is all supposed to happen a lot sooner than it really is. So they don't know to just keep patiently doing the next thing that is before them - it is only when you look back that you see how far all those individual steps brought you.

LisaShaw said...

On a spiritual, personal, professional, political and relational level -- in all things this message applies!

Your words here bare witness with my soul Sister: "I think I can honestly say that "rejoicing in sufferings" is not the stuff for which I yearn. Such an obedience takes a long, long time as well as a sustained effort towards a fixed end, a goal. It requires that I long far more for character development than comfort (aka painlessness)."

I may have to get that book! Love this message! I'm going to post this on my fb. Love you.

Beth E. said...

Oh, my...I feel as if you've been reading my mail! Thanks so much for this post. It's a message I definitely needed to hear.

I'm so glad you're back home. :-)

Saleslady371 said...

That old flesh dies hard. Who wants to suffer? But truly, God's Word is true; in our current situation, my family is growing in the Lord.