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Obedience–Sans Medal, Joy Beyond Words

Matthew 1:18-25

My husband Todd and I are adoptive parents. We have two beautiful little girls, Eden and Emma Kate. Being their mommy is simultaneously the most fun, scary, costly, draining, exhilarating, most eternally consequential challenge I’ve ever taken on. Raising children, as you most likely already know, is a tremendous responsibility.  With that in mind, I can tell you with absolute certainty that there is no other honor on this planet like being chosen to raise someone else’s child.

We may make a big deal over our celebrities and their awards ceremonies and their acceptance speeches. We fawn over our athletes and their almost super-human feats. Trophies and big paychecks are seemingly the highest honor in the land. But success and accomplishments are not the same thing as someone studying your character and then selecting you over all the other candidates. Not once, but twice, someone looked closely at the Beasleys and drew the conclusion, “You are good enough for my baby.”  It’s a pretty awesome feeling. So….where’s my medal?

Now give some consideration to Mary and Joseph. The Creator chose them to raise His son.

Joseph is the one who really has a choice to make. Mary will become pregnant, for sure, and debating the angel is not likely to change her fate. But her fiancé could bail out on her if he chose to. Legally and culturally, he would have been completely within his rights to put her aside for someone else. Who would blame him?

But Matthew tells us that Joseph was righteous. His habit was to follow God’s law. He considered handling the situation in the most delicate way possible—to bow out but still protect Mary if possible. Already, he has my admiration. Most of us like to see others’ sins exposed when they’ve caused us grief. What God needs from Joseph is an act of obedience that would fill each of us with dread. It requires more than humility. He must put aside any plans that he has made for his own future—he must abandon his pride, his personal goals, his “right” to seek security and prosperity—all for the cause of Christ.

Righteousness is costly. Obedience has its price. The longer I walk with the Lord, the more aware I become of the continual call to yield to God’s authority. Each time I reach a fork in the road and choose to obey, I experience some loss. Maybe I’m abandoning the pursuit of something pleasurable. Or I am faced with giving up some ease or luxury that seems to come automatically to everyone else. Other times, it seems that I must give up my dreams in order to fulfill my responsibilities.

Likewise, the longer I walk with the Lord, the more I realize that He works and works and works (really hard…because I’m stubborn) to change my definition of the things that become obstacles to Him. Success takes on an altogether different meaning so that we don’t measure it by awards or a paycheck. Obedience has a way of converting that desire for pleasure into a deep longing for joy. Even our decisions become God’s to make.

Some years ago, my husband started making a lot of noise about wanting to plant a church. I gave him a hard time about it. Well, I tried to sound supportive, but really I was hoping he would come to his senses. He had a position on a church staff in Texas—a nice, safe job with a paycheck and benefits. Then he suggested moving to Arkansas and I thought, “Now you’ve just gone too far. Arkansas???”

Just abandoning all that security to take a risk was the big scare back then. But it’s actually even scarier in practice than I ever imagined. As it turns out, each step in this process is marked by that same fork in the road, “Now what, Beasley? Are you going to obey?”

We’ve done a lot of downsizing—our home, our lifestyle, not to mention our pride! When we decided to move, we didn’t have jobs. We’ll just trust God that He has jobs for us. Well, of course He did, but we never imagined how long we would be here before we had jobs that would actually pay the bills. I had quit teaching a few years ago because I wanted to write. In fact, I told Todd once that I would not teach school so he could plant a church. I applied for every job imaginable, but God gave me a job—you guessed it–teaching at a Christian school.

If I could name just one thing, the hardest thing, about yielding to God’s will by making this move, it would be giving up the pursuit of prosperity. We are so accustomed to the American dream that we think it’s our right to expect that bigger and better things will come our way as we get older. Social media ruins me on this. Everyone posts pictures of their new homes and their vacations. Compared to everyone else, it felt like we were going in reverse.  I would look at where we are and not just feel jealous, but a little ashamed.  Once I was looking at a church bulletin, perusing the bible studies being offered and upcoming events. I didn’t have the money to attend any conferences or workshops. I could come up with the fifteen dollars for bible study book, but decided I needed that money for other things. Even church was too expensive for me.

Here’s the crazy thing. Obeying God’s call to make this move has given us so much joy. The Lord has answered our prayers in the most amazing ways. I tell my students all the time, “Yes, there is a God. I’m teaching school and I love it.” They know my story. I didn’t want to go back to teaching at all. I viewed it as God making me give up my dream of being a writer. But I have never had more fun at a job, and every day I look forward to being with my kids.

Now, I could have stayed in Texas. In fact, I was sneaky enough with my pseudo-supportive wife act, that I’m sure I could have manipulated Mr. Beasley into staying right where we were.

And I would never have known the rewards of obedience.  It was costly, but I’m overwhelmed by blessings.

Joseph is faced with a choice. When God intervened, He said, “Do not be afraid.” I wonder if that was enough for Joseph. Do you suppose that he made the decision to obey, and the fear just–poof!–disappeared? Keep reading and you’ll find that obedience does not automatically equal safety. I find it interesting that Joseph could have avoided all those risks, but he would have missed seeing God at work!

We aren’t told much about Joseph as a dad, but since I’m raising two kiddos, I’ll read into it. I routinely look at my girls and gush to the Lord, “Thank you! Thank you for trusting me with these babies!”  If I have so much joy as a parent, what must it be like to watch the Savior grow and learn? How does it feel to watch baby Jesus, toddling along grabbing at pieces of furniture, steadying himself and then reaching to sit in your lap? Do you suppose Joseph, at the end of his life, regretted his decision to obey?

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Can you give an example of a time that God gave you joy when it was completely unexpected?
  • How do you respond when God presents you with something new? Do you feel like it’s an opportunity or that God is just asking too much?
  • What act of obedience have you been avoiding? What will it take for you to make the leap?

 

2 thoughts on “Obedience–Sans Medal, Joy Beyond Words

  1. Katie, I am so inspired by the God moments in your life! Your family came into my life when I was still learning about Christ. God’s love was definitely shown to me through the way that you guys loved Eden & Emma Kate. Now that I have grown, I realized how much that meant to my life.

    • You sweet thing, you!!! Thank you for telling me. Lord Jesus, bless my precious friend Gerard with tons of joy!!!

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