Kids know the rules. It doesn’t take them long to learn the expectations placed on them in regards to behavior, from school and home, to various social settings. They learn fast. For example, at the park Adeline knows the rules. One kid on the slide at a time and when you are at the top you go down the slide, because other kids are waiting for their turn. You do not climb up the slide (although we keep trying to get away with this one) and you never play on the stairs. So when older kids violated these rules last summer (she was 2 at the time) at our local park, they got “the look of death”. The glare! And said look stayed focused on them until they got it together and played by the rules. After all, this was cutting into her slide time and she did not appreciate it.
Its amazing how quick kids learn. It is also amazing how they deep down they desire to please their parents, other kids, and adults in general. I know for us at least, Adeline brightens up when we show her positive attention, when we acknowledge a “big girl” act or tell her she has done something well. In the same sense, when she knows she has done something wrong she is learning to attempt to hide it, and when she cannot – then she often feels bad about it. There are times when she has even placed herself in a self-created time out space before I have the opportunity to do it (this is extremely rare hence the photo capture).
There are times when Adeline knows what Popi and Mommy want from her, or expect of her, and she is thrilled to be able to achieve it (of course being 3 and human this will never be accomplished 100% of the time). But in her relationship with Robert, I observe something special. She loves time with Popi -almost as much as Popi loves it! But she also knows how to push his buttons (mine too but for the purpose of illustration I am using the father-daughter relationship today). She knows when she has done something he will not like just as much as she glows with excitement to share good news with him: I went poopie on the potty . . . I finished all my dinner . . . look what I made at school. She is a tough cookie, strong-willed and determined (wonder where she got that?????). She will go head to head with her Popi more often than she ought to, but time after time I have witnessed a miracle. She surrenders and does what she knows he wants her to do, maybe because a little part of her three-year old heart knows he wants what is best for her. To watch her agree to his demand, gently kiss him on the lips as she grabs his face with her two little hands, and say “I love you Popi” – this equals melted heart (and at 37 weeks pregnant often coupled with a little tear or two). She is willing to obey her Popi, but sometimes as a 3 year old girl she is too weak to do it. She simply cannot faithfully obey him ALL the time, no matter how badly she wants to.
Sound familiar at all? In a sense this is a simplistic understanding of our relationship with our Father too, our heavenly one. In Matthew 26 as Jesus is in the garden of Gethsemane he asks his disciples to stay watch while he prays. He tells them to “watch and pray so that [they] will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Jesus has retreated to pray three times in the garden, and returned to find his disciples sleeping. He knows that he is amidst a spiritual battle between what he wants and what the Father wants. He has prayed three times, “My Father, if it is not possible for his cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” Jesus himself spent time in prayer discerning the Father’s will, asking what God wants, being sure of the will of the Father. His divinity and humanity collide in his final midnight hour as he wrestles with the brutal crucifixion he must face and the possibility of another way.
But when Judas leads the soldiers to Jesus and he is faced with the beginning of the end of his life on earth, he knows without a shadow of a doubt what he must do. In his Gospel account John details Peter’s attempt to fight off the soldiers with a sword as he cut off the ear of the high priest’s slave. Jesus responds in certainty and with conviction, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” Jesus knows the will of the Father, he has tested it in prayer. He knows that there is no other approach, no other way – he has surrendered completely to the will of the Father and is willingly ready to do what is required of him. Three times in the garden, during prayer, Jesus received the same answer from the Father and now he is certain of what must be done and he commits to it with complete trust and love – the will of the Father is his priority and not his own.
For Jesus it is simple, the will of the Father comes first. Don’t you think we should have the same priority? Even the same approach? It is three steps that Jesus took in the garden of Gethsemane to demonstrate faithfulness and trust that we too can follow.
1. Know the will of the Father.
2. Surrender to it.
3. Do it willingly
How do we know the will of the Father? The plan he has for us? We know his heart. Like Jesus, we pray and listen. We know him through relationship and of course through the Scripture. Jesus knew the Jewish Scriptures and because of this he knew the prophecy that he was to fulfill. Like Jesus, we know the Father through the Word of God that reveals him to us. And because of this relationship we can know the will of the Father when he reveals it to us.
How do we surrender to His will? Like Jesus, we give our spirit over to him and we let go of the ideas we might have about how things should go. Jesus let go of his idea, that the cup shall pass from him, and he committed to doing what the Father willed. Through surrender he saw clearly, what God wanted and the need to trust in the Father. To see with such clarity, we too need to let go our will and surrender to God’s.
How does we do it willingly? We don’t question it, we just do it. Jesus didn’t question the way of God, he did it. He recognized ways outside of Gods will and refused them (the sword or fleeing). He also excepted the painful consequences that were part of the faithful way (Peters denial, Judas’ betrayal, abandonment, torture, and death). He trusted in Gods purpose instead of questioning the details of it. He simply did it. He did not focus on the distractions but on the Father and what he willed. Our focus too must be on the Father and what he asks of us, not on the other possibilities or our own ideas or desires.
I fully recognize our relationship with God is not an exact match with that of Adeline and her Popi. But the way everything seems at peace and in place when she does what she knows Popi wants seems to be a subtle reminder of how God must feel when we are on the same page as him. A reflection of such joy! When we get his will for our life, surrender to it, and do it willingly there is peace. The way it pleases Robert to have an obedient daughter can only reveal a portion of God’s glory when we as his children are obedient to his perfect will. But it might be just the glimpse we need to remind us of how precious our relationship with the Father is, and how crucial our obedience to his will is as part of that relationship. It might just be a depiction of joyfully obedience.