And the readings today did not disappoint. "Obedience is better than sacrifice." "To the upright, I will show the saving power of God." "New wine is poured into fresh wineskins."
The first reading of course reminded me of the old Keith Green song: "To obey is better than sacrifice/I don't need your money I want your life..." "You pray to prosper and succeed, but your flesh is something I just can't feed." Now, ol' Keith had a harsh, cutting edge to his songs, but perhaps for this reason they still hold an appeal for me. He spoke especially to a certain subset of the Evangelical Christian culture of his day. But hearing this reading today with that song in my mind allowed me to see the proper "cuttingness" of Saul's words to Samuel, and God's words to my heart. I can want all sorts of lovely Christian things in my life, I can fulfill all sorts of roles, make the right noises and have the right associations, but if I am doing them as a cover for ignoring simple obedience to God, it's all garbage. Not a speck of it is going to impress God, and I delude myself.
This matter of new wineskins had me thinking about priorities in my life, in conjunction with that simple obedience. I am not an overly structured sort of person; I don't keep a rigid schedule, nor do I make short- and long-term goals and review them at regular intervals to see how I'm doing with my action steps. I'm more of a "live with purpose and meaning" type person who thinks a lot about that purpose and meaning. What I'm describing is really a sort of structure, but it is more global or "circular" instead of linear. But regardless of what type of structure makes my life go around, I realize I am liable to difficulties if I don't take stock of my life with a bit of objectivity from time to time. One difficulty I fall into is this matter of my priorities morphing to fit the amount of time I spend with or on various facets in my life. For example, there have been times in my life when I spent a lot of time on the computer, and therefore the things I did while on the computer became high priorities in my life. There have been Yahoo! groups that I've needed to leave simply because of a lot of meaningless chatter with people I didn't even know was becoming far too important to me. And what a revelation when one needs to be without a computer or without internet for awhile! You know what? Life actually goes on with out it!
My poor husband tends to be victim in another way. He is gone for long hours every day, and my life is consumed with home and children and all thing things buzzing through my head. Here is a clear example where the priority I make of my marriage has to be much, much higher than the actual time I have to invest one-on-one with my husband when he's home. Because frankly if I don't have that priority straight, ain't nothing else gonna work in life anyway.
God intends for me to be transformed:
I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. (Rom. 12:1-2)What I am gleaning is this: God is not in the business of taking the lovely things away from my life. I've worried far too long that God was like that, and He's just not. He is all about me taking very seriously the gifts and grace He has given me, however. Nothing may be allowed to choke the basic vocation He gives me, and I need to examine everything not on the basis of how pleasant or unpleasant it is, but on how it fits with my vocation. Of course, I must continually strive to understand the fullness of what my vocation is (and by this I don't only mean being married, I mean the vocation to follow Christ in the time and space I occupy and the person I am). Obedience to God always ultimately leads to the fullness of happiness. I can trust that He has only my good in view, and my happiness. It is SO much better than me dreaming up schemes by which I "sacrifice" all sorts of things to improve myself and save the world. (What a laugh!)