Donald Miller wrote in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years:
"So I started obeying a little. I'd feel God wanting me to hold my tongue and I would. It didn't feel natural at first; it felt fake, like I was being a character somebody else wanted me to be and not who I actually was; but if I held my tongue, the scene would play better, and I always felt better when it was done. I started feeling like a better character and when you are a better character, our story gets better too. At first the feeling was only about holding my tongue. And when I learned to hold my tongue a bit, the Voice guided me from the defensive to the intentional.
God wanted me to do things, to help people, to volunteer or write a letter or talk to my neighbor. Sometimes I'd do the thing God wanted and the story always went well, of course; and sometimes I'd ignore it and watch television. But by the time I really came to believe the Voice was God and God was trying to write a better story. And besides, nothing God wanted me to was difficult.
It's a great book, I don't want to call it a must read, that seems presumptuous but it is wonderfully written and has an truly original perspective. If you love to read or write this is as must read as it gets.
That said, back to the excerpt. Obedience. People equate faithfulness with obedience and I hesitate a bit, I think that a faith which lives itself out by following rules leads to legalism and self righteousness and then failure.
It is a New Year's Resolution or I am Willing Myself to be better religion.
Miller points to two interesting parts of obedience: first, listening to God and following that, when the character does that (obeys), the story gets better.
It hit me: legalism is not obedience--willing oneself is not obeying anyone but self. Obedience is hearing, attending to and then following what Miller calls the Voice. The story would not get better if I take a legalistic or self will approach, but if I listen to God, discern His will from prayer, scripture, worship and I have a posture ready to give then not only will I be obedient, my story gets better (note, not easier--Miller has great thoughts on our pursuit of comfort).
I love the line, "sometimes I'd ignore the voice and watch television" again, what I am listening to and what am I paying attention to.?
I just listened to a podcast of a sermon from Andy Stanley of Northpoint Community Church. He asked, "when was the last time you saw a love scene in a movie between two married people? I know it's almost ewww, yuck like watching your parents."
Stanley's conclusion: we pay lots attention to and then fantasize about the love scene between unmarried people we find attractive but then are shocked, outraged that someone acts out in real life, that which we seek for entertainment.
We are shocked at the real world destruction that comes from listening then acting on a voice that is not God, because in the movies such behavior is fun with a cool soundtrack and hair/make up artists and costume designers. It has the illusion of being worthy of watching, but somehow we are supposed to know not do what we pay to watch.
Putting the two points together, if I follow what I focus on, then first I need to focus on that which is true and worthy. Then, I need to follow it. That is obedience, it's not complicated, but its not always entertaining. Good stories are not amusements--but they are rich and interesting and have a lasting quality that I want.
Monday morning coffee and comfort with obedience. I think it's going to be an interesting week.