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A Lesson In Obedience

While I may complain about all the things
I’ve left behind in New York, Texas does have at least one
advantage over the Big Apple (aside from, of course, that awesome
Texas barbeque): down here we’re in the land of home
schooling, and so there’s no shortage of places to find
educational games and workbooks for your child. Believe me, this is
not a blog about home schooling – that’s a subject
I’m not going to weigh in on, except to say we are not doing
it. But since we’re holding Maddie out of preschool for at
least another semester and she’s showing signs of mental
restlessness, I thought I’d search for a few things we could
do together to challenge her intellectually this fall.

Which is how we ended up at a large family Christian store, popular
because of its wide selection. They’ve got huge aisles of
home-schooling books and guidelines, school supplies, teaching
aids, craft supplies, and more, all mingling with the rest of the
store’s large cd section, book area, and of course toy
selection. Maddie had never been before and I’d described it
to her in our morning briefing as a place to get her some school
supplies. “Am I going to school?” “No, kiddo, not
yet, but we can find fun school things for kids your age to play
with. Does that sound ok? The supply store also has books and
music!” “Ok, I’ll check it out.” Whew.

This blog is not about our trip to the
store, in itself, so let me get to the point here. All of this
background is simply to show you that we were in a new area, with
lots of cool, fun things to look at like crayons and paints and
cool books and small toys and party favors and such. Maddie was
behaving pretty well, though she was having a hard time restraining
herself from putting things in the cart simply because of the way
they looked. At one point she walked up to me with a large nylon
banana with some sort of huge banner or something zipped inside it,
and she said earnestly, “I really need this, Mom. I need a
fake banana. A lot.”

I knew the store would be fun for her, but also a challenge in
restraint, and tried to give her as much of a lead as I could. As
long as she played quietly and didn’t make a mess and stayed
within eyesight, I let her create little scenes or explore books or
whatever. At one point I’d finished searching through an
entire section and was ready to move to a different part of the
store, and realized I’d failed to give Maddie notice that
she’d be changing gears in a few moments. Nervous about the
possible scene, I decided to be bold and play it down, and see what

Walking over to Maddie’s elaborately constructed game
consisting of touching all the hanging cards in a very strict order
and saying the made-up rhyme in exactly the right way, I said,
“Leave all your things and follow me, please.”

At which point Maddie stood up, turned, and walked behind me
without a word.

As we walked to the next section I thought to myself, Hmm. That
sounded familiar. Where have I heard that before? Maybe a movie I

Before I go on, let me assure you that the rest of the morning did
not go so smoothly. I’d carefully planned the excursion so we
ended up in the children’s section last, and as I browsed
board books Maddie and Cora played with the Thomas train set
thoughtfully provided by the owners. I gave Maddie a careful
countdown to leaving, but in the end she still melted down, sobbing
that she hadn’t had “nearly long enough a turn at the
store, please, Mommy!” So yes, she screamed and cried as we
left, but even then she didn’t disobey me – she got up,
sobbing, and walked away, getting into the car even while she
begged for a reprieve.

And that’s when it hit me – my words to her were
exactly what Jesus said to his followers, right before they left
their families and became his disciples. Maddie’s
unquestioning response to my edict was certainly partially due to
ingrained habit: we’ve worked hard on obedience with her, and
taught her to unquestioningly do what she’s told, partly for
safety reasons and partly for discipline reasons; as a
three-year-old, though, she’s far from perfect in that area
and most times can’t resist asking questions or debating as
she goes. But her response is at least partly a matter of faith:
faith in her mommy, and faith that I wouldn’t be asking
something of her without a good reason.

And I have to ask myself – do I have this kind of faith? I
expect her to obey this imperfect, flawed human being she calls a
Mommy, but do I have enough faith to obey the perfect Man?
Maddie’s spent much of her life practicing obedience with her
elders, and I saw the fruit of that practice in action; how much
time do I invest in my obedience muscles? Is it so ingrained in me,
so instinctive, that I’d stand up from the small games and
diversions of my life and unquestioningly follow Him into the

I know, I know – I’m making too much out of this. But
we deliberately use words in the raising of Cora and Maddie –
words like obedience, submission, choice, freedom, and consequence
– that are echoed in our spiritual life, so she will see the
bigger picture as we model a relational God for her. Am I so busy
being the Big Guy in my relationship with Maddie that I forget
I’m a toddler with Him, and don’t do my own spiritual

I chewed over this the rest of the day, and am not sure what the
answer is. I do know that I can learn a lot from watching my
three-year-old struggle in her relationship with me. I see the joy
on her face when she knows she’s made the mature choice, when
she sees my happiness for her beaming back at her. And if I am
going to beat myself up for my lack of obedience excercising in my
own spiritual life, then I have to at least know that when I do
submit simply because I’m supposed to and not because
there’s an M&M at the end of it for me, I must imagine
the great grin on God’s face as he sees me make that choice.

I went for school supplies, and got a lesson of my own.


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