When I ring the ship’s bell at the base of our stairs, the boys know that means come to the kitchen, uh, right now. And they do. They aren’t promised a bowl of ice cream, or a big surprise, it could be the dishes, trash or dog poop. When we ring the bell, it means they are needed in the kitchen.
When I introduced the bell we made it a fun game. They never learned to refuse it because it was fun, even though it wasn’t always a treat, sometimes it was a chore. They would race each other down the stairs. We would all grumble and laugh through the grudgery of a chore together. I promised them that if I had to ring the bell twice it would be trouble, someone better be bleeding, unconscious or missing. They believed me. I’ve probably had to prove that true a couple of times. I’ve been consistent enough as a parent that they believe what I say when I say it.
The consequence wouldn’t be worth the refusal and they trust me that I won’t push them too hard if they come. It works. I suppose it is important to factor in the idea that we really like each other too.
The same thing happens when I’m riding Gwinny. Somehow I have the audacity to get on the back of a 1200 pound horse and use my legs to tell her where to go, how fast, how far, and how high, and then when to stop. If I press with my inside leg and hold the outside rein, I’m asking her to bend her body. If I press with that inside leg and open the outside rein, I’m asking her to make her circle wider. Why would she let me tell her what to do with my inside leg? Why does she comply? Is it because someone whipped her if she didn’t? Is it because she’s afraid of me hurting her if she refuses? Or is it because someone made it a fun game and she learned to play. Maybe she instinctually moves away from pressure. Can she yield if she doesn’t trust me? She could toss me off her back at any moment that she chooses to get rid of me. In the same way teens run away from home when the pressures are too much.
Who do I yield to? Who is pushing me around, making me bend, come when called, and stop to wait? How good am I at obeying? Can I possibly be good at the asking job if I am not so good at the obeying role? I don’t think so. I think it is like a scale, both sides have to balance for there not to be a spill of something messy, like a tantrum, or a disappointment, an injury or a great loss. Of course, life is messy, and the spills happen. We just keep trying.
Maybe I am asking Gwinny to bend around the circle so if we were in a situation that it could save her life (and mine) she would respond as trained to do. When someone needs my sons, I hope they run to see what it is. The willingness to show up prepared to help, give, listen or do is the point.
Someone has the bigger picture in mind and is shaping and growing the trainee to become something else, something better. For Gwinny to know how to respond to protect us in a dangerous situation she has to be gradually stimulated to be able to tolerate something scary and react as trained to do. The boys are learning that they should care about what someone else needs even if they are immersed in what they want to do. I am learning to spend myself for the good of others. These are simple life lessons in becoming self less, draining out the self to make room for God.
We don’t know the end of the story because it is better that we don’t know. It is God’s great mercy that he doesn’t tell us how it all goes before it happens. We wouldn’t do it. But we would miss the great blessing of growing into what He wants us to be. Maybe He wants us to fly. I can’t think of a worse outcome for my life than to be stuck in one place and cease to grow or learn. But often what I want to do is taking me directly to that dead end, I just don’t know it. But God does.
Yielding isn’t easy to do. I think I have a better plan most of the time. When I first sat with the orphan on my lap on the last day of my first visit to Uganda and I was called to orphan care with my life, beginning with adoption, I didn’t know all that God had planned for me. And it’s a good thing because like the turtle I am, I would go into my shell and stay there! If I knew how hard it would be to help many orphaned children in Uganda, I would have gone to the beach instead. Good thing I am not in charge. God was able to use my obedience to benefit many orphaned children in Uganda. And we have just begun our journey. Maybe someday I will be so yielded to Him that it is unclear where I end and he begins. Like marriage, we become one. Ideally I am not seen at all.
Craig and I have yielded our lives towards our calling for orphan care in Uganda. It has mostly been a fun journey. The learning has been interesting, even during the worst of deception and betrayal we had some good laughs and acquired some critically important skills. I survived boot camp. I trust God’s plan for my life. And I would rather avoid the consequences of my disobedience. Ok, I admit, I do hope for a carrot now and then on the journey. Is that so bad? I don’t think so as long as it isn’t what motivates me ultimately. More than that dangling carrot I want to know Jesus will one day put his hands on my shoulders, look me in the face, and say, “well done good and faithful servant.” I’m quite sure that is when I’ll be soaring. Isn’t that priceless? It is about relationship.
I’m not talking about a plan to work my way into heaven. I’m saying once I entered a relationship with Jesus, then I had to learn to take the daily walk with him. The bell he rings finds me where ever I try to be busy and hide. I have a choice there. He takes me to some uncomfortable places where I must learn to yield and sometimes, it will be a treat, sometimes a heavy burden to bear, and sometimes it stinks. But, I’m never alone in it. It’s never more than I can handle. And there is an outcome that is to my benefit, even if I don’t know what it is. I believe the promise in the bible that the plans he has for me are to prosper me and not to harm me. Believing is taking a leap of faith. Leaping takes skill. Some day Gwinny and I will leap…fly…over obstacles. But we have some skills to learn first. How can I fly with God if I can’t first walk? I am learning skills on one side of the scale, and teaching them to my children on the other side. That makes a good balance. If they see me do it, I hope they will be more likely to do it themselves. And then they will pass that on to their children…and on…and on…and on… It was never about me in the first place. God always knew that.