Obedience and Love
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 1:13 PM [+]
Yesterday while saying the Thanksgiving Prayers after Communion, I was hit particularly by this portion:
Grant me compunction and contrition of heart, humility in my thoughts, and a release from the slavery of my own reasonings.
Humility in my thoughts? Haha...how easy it is to voice our humility, but it is quite another thing to have humility in our thoughts! Can you imagine it? I suspect there are two things to be had here: humility in my opinions and humility in my perception of myself. And I am abundantly supplied with neither.
I also thought to myself (without humility I am sure): what would it really be like to be freed from the slavery of my own reasonings? I cannot imagine it...and while I can easily point to all manner of people who are far far too sure of themselves, I'm not at all sure I can easily admit I could use a dose of uncertainty in myself. How shall I escape my own reasonings of which I am so certain!
Obedience often means setting outside our own reasonings and just doing what we are told. Consider our kids, in that for them, obedience absolutely entails being "released from the slavery of their own reasoning." For to them, it is altogether meet and right for them to draw with the crayon on the wall. Granted, they often face immediate consequences for their inability to free themselves from their own reasonings, but we can at least see it is possible to do it.
Hopefully, love is the ultimate reason why we are obedient. And, love is in fact a form of obedience, so I suppose there is some circular reasoning here - but you are supposed to be freed from that anyway, so tarry on with me. In those times when we do not feel like loving and yet we do - which is precisely how marriages actually LAST - this is our being obedience to something/someone beyond on our reasonings.
Monastics face an overt form of obedience training, and through them we who live in the world can gain some insight into our own struggles in learning to be obedient. (In my experience, whether in their dis or obedience we can gain insight from our children too!)
I recall a story of a novice being told by his elder to plant a stick in the ground and to tend to it everyday. And so the novice did so for a very long time, watering the stick, obviously to no avail. Finally the novice gained the courage to tell the elder that nothing had happened, the stick had not grown. And the elder told him, "The stick has not grown, but YOU have."
And then this story:
They used to say that Abba Sylvanus had in Scete a disciple whose name was Mark, and that he possessed to a great degree the faculty of obedience; he was a scribe, and the old man loved him greatly for his obedience. Now Sylvanus had eleven other disciples, and they were disturbed because they saw that the old man loved Mark more than them, and when the old men who were in Scete heard of this they were also troubled about it.
One day when they came to him to reprove him about this, Sylvanus took them, and went forth, and passing by the cells of the brethren, he knocked at the door of each cell, and said, "O brother, come forth, for I have need of thee." And he passed by all their cells, and not one of the obeyed him quickly.
But when they went to the cell of Mark, he knocked at the door and said, "Brother Mark," and as soon as Mark heard the voice of the old man, he jumped up straightway and came out and Sylvanus sent him off on some business.
Then Sylvanus said to the old men, "My fathers, where are the other brethren?" And they went into Mark's cell, and looked at the quire of the book which he was writing, and they saw that he had begun to write one side of the Greek letter "omega" (o) and that as soon as he heard the voice of his master, he ran out and did not stay to complete the other side of the letter. Now when the old men perceived these things, they answered and said unto Sylvanus, "Verily, old man, we also love the brother whom thou lovest, for God also loveth him."
God grant that I may be so moved to do God's will before I finish my "omega's"