Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Evangelical Counsel of Obedience, for Laity

And here we are at the last of the three evangelical counsels, obedience, and what I have learned about it.

I am very aware that my thoughts often feel backwards to me when I compare myself with the standard line -- about anything, really. What I mean is that if myself and 99 other people played word association, I might be with only one or two other people in relating what seems like an obvious connection between concept A and concept B. That's just how my brain works. And of course, my observations are always rooted in my own unique history.

My own unique history when it comes to obedience is that my heart has been searching all my life for someone who can explain life to me, and by that I mean how to live it. I told this story awhile back about the woman who identified that I had "such a submissive spirit." I wrote that six years ago, and I still have no concept at all how to explain what happened there, but I will tell you it is true. There is something in me that has always longed to find a suitable home for that submissive spirit of mine. And my search has taught me something.

You might think that a submissive spirit would bow down readily before anyone willing to dominate it. But in truth, a submissive spirit recognizes quickly the incapacity for authority that is inherent in domination. Did I just lose you with those statements? Maybe I'd better back up and define my terms.

I am defining "submissive" here as one who wants to say Yes, loudly, strongly, boldly, to what is right, true and good. That means to assent, to believe, but also to act. To want those things. I have always wanted these things. My difficulty came in despairing of ever finding them, especially because I realized that the Right, the True, and the Good are not doctrines you can believe, but a way you live. It seems that for  years, all I found was the compromised, the half truth, and the mediocre.

Domineering types seem to be strong, and seem to have something solid to say about what is right, true, and good, but there's always a sort of red flag, an invisible, spiritual one, that I see flying around them, and as courage allows, I have rejected what they say, even while being drawn to how they say it (namely, with strength). There's always something in a domineering, authoritative person that demands a surrender of one's personal freedom to them. And why would I want to give my personal freedom to another person who is just like me?

And I think that a lot of people figure that when you talk about obedience to the Church, or in the Church, it can only mean that kind of being dominated.

But if you accept that there is a God, then there is another option.

That option would be a submission, an obedience to Being who is not just like me, which gives the deepest freedom humanly possible.

And that option is what my soul has been searching for all my life.

Here's what the OCDS Constitutions have to say about obedience:

The promise of obedience is a pledge to live open to the will of God, “in whom we live and move and have our being” (Ac 17:28) imitating Christ who accepted the Father’s will and was “obedient unto death, death on a cross” (Ph 2:8). The promise of obedience is an exercise of faith leading to the search for God’s will in the events and challenges in society and our own personal life. For this reason the Secular Carmelite freely cooperates with those who have responsibility for guiding the community and the Order in discerning and accepting God’s ways: the Community’s Council, the Provincial and the General.
To me it is a mistake, and a big one, to think of obedience as looking to a legitimate authority, even to God, for a set of parameters inside which I will carefully stay. It is not, of course, that I am looking to break through boundaries reason sets in place. That would be, well, unreasonable! But I prefer to think of obedience as the open sky, into which I am committed to fly on the wings God has granted me. God has desires that are as infinite as His love, and how deep and broad and wide His desires for me must be. What dreams and plans He must treasure as He looks at my life with its potential. Obedience is to say yes to God's will, His desires, His dreams for me, and through me for this world. It is to fly with all the strength I can muster. It is to delve into His Word, to know His will, to embrace it with all I am, and live it with my full passion, in the concrete reality before me daily.

His will for me is love and mercy itself. To submit to His will is to unite myself with His love and mercy, thereby becoming my free and genuine self.  God alone is big enough for me to give myself to in this way.

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