Two-and-a-half years ago, a mere ten months after their wedding, my son and daughter-in-law found themselves gifted with a strong-willed child … God’s oath of Delight, according to her name. And so she has been, God’s delight, and our own. Nonetheless, every once in awhile she reminds her parents that beneath the charm lies that “will of iron” first notable on her birth day.
On the wings of God’s gift of their daughter, however, my son and daughter-in-law were blessed with another gift, a life-saving gift … the discernment and wisdom necessary to mold that blessing … and the molding only added to the joy she emanates when she obeys.
Yes, there’s been a bumpy road or two … or three, but their daughter learned quickly to choose obedience. Added to her servant’s heart, my granddaughter truly defines delight.
Things did not change when, sixteen days after she turned one, my granddaughter found herself to be a big sister. That delight simply multiplied, hers and ours.
I couldn’t help but think of this when I read Paul’s words to Philemon: “Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love.”
“I appeal to you on the basis of love…”
Isn’t this the only source of all true obedience? Obedience can’t be forced, as much as we may wish it were otherwise … only compliance, to another’s wishes, can be forced. Obedience flows, not from an absence of will, but from an internal desire to submit self-will to the wishes and the needs of another. Obedience, in that sense, is the greatest gift we can offer … we can receive.
My son and daughter-in-law knew that … they’ve experienced it in a plethora of small measures these past two-and-a-half years. But now, now they are living in the crucible of learning that truth on an entirely different level … and they’re left waiting for the gift.
Eden knew desire. And Eden, though God’s desire, harbored another desire, born of clay. And just as my granddaughter bears Eden’s name, she also bears its dual nature.
At the end of August she’ll turn three, and by then she’ll be big sister to two siblings. Moving a year ago from the crib to a toddler bed was a breeze, for everyone. A few weeks ago, in preparation for the newest baby, she was delighted to give her toddler bed to her little brother as she now had her own ‘big girl’ bed.
Most often bedtime in their household has been a positive experience, and the first two weeks into this newest venture proved uneventful. Then she tasted it, the new freedom available in a real bed, and desire mushroomed full blown. Suddenly “bed” will not hold her. Not once, not twice, but more than a dozen times at each bedding down, my granddaughter explores freedom … her strong will glories in choice and obedience is found wanting.
Delight has turned to nightmare and her parents are left “appealing to you on the basis of love” still waiting love’s gifting. Coercion? Well, it has remained fruitless, discovering itself handicapped at birthing that internal desire to submit self-will to another’s.
Here I find Paul. Here I find Philemon. Here I find, myself. Here I find the crux of life in Christ, forged not in Eden, but in Gethsemane.
Paul says it clearly, “… because I hear about your faith in the LORD Jesus and your love for all the saints…” and in his words I hear a echo of the truth behind them.
“For God so loved the world He gave…”
“We love Him because He first loved us.”
Why did God create man with free will? Because born in the pain and the heartache of Eden lies the unsurpassable joy of Gethsemane …not my will, but Thine. There is no obedience outside of that bloody soil. Not for Jesus. Not for me. Not even for my little granddaughter. Obedience, be it big or small, can only know life here. Gethsemane is not merely the place of obedience’s birth; it’s the only place obedience can live. To step out of Gethsemane is to re-enter Eden, to walk desire in a manner that can know only death.
Listen, I hear His voice, calling to me … I appeal to you on the basis of love.
LORD, Gethsemane is not easy ground. It’s blood-stained. And to be my ground, it must be my blood. Teach me to breathe deeply its liberating air, making it my own. Let it be the familiar territory I walk as I walk in You. Let it be the soil from which I live in oneness of spirit with my brothers and sisters, the soil-source of my servant’s heart. As Paul appealed to Philemon to walk there on behalf of Onesimus, who according to the world deserved death, teach me to bury in its soil my ‘rights’ that others might know life.
As I read about your granddaughter, visions crossed my mind of the many occasions I sat in wonder at my own daughter's iron will. Were it not for the name difference, I could have sworn I was reading about Tabitha. "Delightful"? Well, I'll just say that for all that iron will, she had the deepest, most joyful belly laugh of anyone I ever heard in my life... even up to this day. Now she's 21. She's still learning the art of letting go and the true values of Gethsemane. She's giving and compassionate to no end. She lives for making other people happy. Her nature and work ethic are just like that of Tabitha (Dorcas, woman of good works) in the Bible. And just like Tabitha, she's also learning what it is to die (to that will) and be raised up to life again. And she still laughs so beautifully that it more than delights my soul. I can only imagine God's smile every time she does something for no other reason than simply because she knows it pleases her Abba Father. Your dear kids are in for a lot of surprises... delightful surprises.