Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sort-Of Obedience

My kids like to push most things to the limits, and obeying mom is no exception. They want to see how wide the boundaries are when it comes to listening, hearing, and doing. There are three favored tactics used for "stretching" obedience in our home.

The delay:

One phrase I am beginning to hear too much of is, "Just a minute!" Don't get me wrong, I'm not an irrational dictator - if someone asks for another minute (to finish what they're engaged in before doing the task I'm asking) I am usually happy to oblige. It's the assumption that another minute is always available that grates this momma's nerves.

The ignore:

Ignoring is really nothing more than another delay tactic, as obedience will be enforced eventually. Depending on which child I'm dealing with, ignoring may look like a complete "zone out" (for example, a particular adolescent in front of the TV, who is incapable of muttering a word in response while his favorite programming is on) or more like a distance issue, "I didn't hear you!"

I, on the other hand, am a fan of first-time obedience. The problem is actually making it happen. (By the way, I'm totally open to suggestions on how to actually make first-time obedience a reality!) If my walls could talk, they would likely repeat the refrain, "I shouldn't have to tell you fifteen times. Your job is to listen and obey the first time." (Yes, I tend to exaggerate.)

The partial:

Partial obedience can take the form be a job that gets half done, or done but not properly. Sometimes it's yet another version of the delay ("Yes, I was just doing it right now."). Most often, it looks like "optional" obedience. An example would be when I ask someone to "Do their jobs." They know what this means, they know the list of jobs for morning and evening. Yet they choose to only do one or two of those jobs, and when asked if they've done their jobs the answer is, "Yes." But with further digging the truth is uncovered.

While there are also instances of blatant disobedience (as in, "Don't color on the walls!" followed by blue and purple swirls marking the hallway - yes, real example), most times disobedience takes the form of sort-of obedience - the delay, the ignore, and the partial. And I don't believe that the intent behind sort-of obedience is truly to disobey and disregard what I'm asking so much as it is rooted in the desire to do good, but on their own terms, timeline, and in their own way.

I read a story today about disobedience...

God told King Saul (through the prophet Samuel) to "attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them." Saul and his army did as they were commanded and attacked, but they "spared [King] Agag and the best of the sheep and the cattle..."

Saul wasn't trying to be disobedient. But God's way didn't totally make sense to him. I mean, why destroy all the good livestock?! Why not keep some for ourselves? And of course, some to offer up to the Lord. Saul was sort-of obedient.

God didn't see it that way.

Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
He has rejected you...

~1 Samuel 15:22-23

Sort-of obedience is still disobedience. God calls it rebellion and arrogance and equates it to divination and idolatry. (If you recall, the first of the ten commandments is about idolatry - "...no other gods before Me.") Disobedience is that bad!

All this has got me thinking about my own areas of sort-of obedience...

How often to I hear the Lord tell me to do something - like reading the Word with the kids around the dinner table (or to stop doing something - like nagging my hubby about something that bugs me) - and I put it off? I'll start on Monday...

How often do I sense God calling me to make a big change or sacrifice - like getting rid of TV for a season - and I ignore Him? I didn't hear that right... That wasn't really God... Surely He didn't mean... (Oooh, that sounds familiar, doesn't it?!)

How often does He ask me to do a job for Him - like write a book - and I stop (or take an "extended break") before the work is complete? I think this much is good enough...

I think the first step in training my children to obey completely and immediately is probably for me to show them how it's done.

What about you? Is there something God has been calling you to do (or stop doing) that you've been only sort-of obedient in?


  1. Saul's partial obedience led to the Agagites continuing to exist. You know the story of Esther? Haman was an Agagite. All because Saul didn't finish off those people like God commanded, the whole Jewish nation was nearly destroyed.

    I have held off on LOTS of things. Only partially doing them or doing them "good enough." I am praying that God will continue to draw me to Him so that I can desire obedience. I must admit that I am stiff-necked too often. Pride is probably my worst offense. Thank you for reminding me to obey NOW!

    Love you girl,

  2. In our house obedience must be done Cheerfully, Right Away, All the Way, No Matter What. Anything else is considered disobedience. Eph tells chidren to obey and honor their parents. The Cheerfully falls under honoring.

    Of course for those who have earned the right (through obeying the majority of the time this way) they can respectfully appeal with "May I finish this first?" or "May I tell you something? I already did that." or "May I ask why?" Those questions can't follow every directive though.

    And the consequence for kids younger than 10 is a calm, private spanking every time, without reminding and warning and threatening, or counting to 3 or yelling, etc. Older ones will need another consequence like loss of privelege that is related to the disobedience.

    #1 key is consistency. If you wait to give a consequence the 3rd or 4th time you speak, they will learn to wait until the 2-3 time to obey. It actually is training them to disobey. And if they can obey the 2-3 time, they CAN obey the first time.

    #2 key is training. No amount of discipline makes up for a lack of training. Call a family meeting one night a week during a non-confrontational time to teach your kids what you mean by first-time obedience. Tell them what you've seen them doing (ignoring, telling you when they'll obey, sulking, etc.) Explain why it's wrong based on Scripture. Then tell them when you ask them to do something in a nice, calm voice, you expect them to do it. Then practice. Send them one by one to perform a task. Ex)"Shay, please put this shirt on my bed." She answers cheerfully with "Yes, Mom" goes straight to do it. Comes back and reports, "Mom, I put the shirt on your bed." You say, "Great job! Thank you for obeying right away and cheerfully!"

    #3 key is praise and encouragement. When you see the behavior you expect, thank them, hug them, praise them and encourage them. But don't bribe them. Bribes just let them know they are in charge and you believe your God-given authority is not enough to expect honor and obedience.

    Hope that helps. We're not perfect over here but what I've just shared has made a huge difference in our home.

  3. Jenny,
    Please, please, please can you come live with me and be my personal (and Biblical) supernanny?!
    Thanks for the awesome suggestions!


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