When you’re asked to do something by somebody you love, what is the first response that goes through your head? What is the first response that comes out of your mouth? Is it a reluctant agreement to follow through on the request? Is it a flustered acquiescence because you just have too much on your plate already? Is it a flat-out response of “No”? Or is it a release of your personal wants and a loving embrace of the task set out before you because you love that person?
Recently on The Inner Life, Josh Raymond welcomed Father Rob Kroll onto the show to discuss the significance and necessity for obedience both in our relationships as well as our spiritual lives.
Josh began the conversation by recalling the movie The Princess Bride, a romantic comedy set in a fantasy, medieval world. The female lead is Buttercup, a farm girl who gets enjoyment out of ordering around a farm boy named Westley. While Buttercup has not fully realized the development of her feelings for Westley, he is madly in love with her. And every time she asks him to do something for her, he responds with the same three words: “As you wish.” Those three words came to translate into a different set of three words, “I love you.”
That’s really what we mean when we embrace the personal sacrifices that we are called to make for other people in our lives. The men and women of the United States Armed Forces give up their freedoms, their personal lives, their comforts, and their homes to serve our country because they love it. They love this country so much that they forego their own freedoms to protect the freedoms of those at home. They show love through their dedication and obedience to their commanding officers, even when it might seem like the wrong call.
Father Rob, as an ordained priest and Jesuit, knows the vow to obedience very well. He reports directly to his provincial who has the authority to send him on different missions and assignments. While he said this is freeing because he doesn’t have to make all of his own decisions, it’s not always an assignment that he’s happy about. He remembers on more than one occasion not being thrilled about certain decisions that were made for his placement, but trusting and obeying God’s will, they worked out in the end.
Josh went back to the point about obedience being a freeing experience. As adamant as one might be about the decisions that they’ve made in the past, we all have regrets about things that we’ve done or said that hurt other people. If we had only been united with God’s will at that moment, we never would have made those mistakes. We shouldn’t dwell on the regrets of the past, but we should take our mistakes as lessons and resolve to be better about maintaining our obedience to God.
Father Rob posited an analogy, saying that we are like children that have just received a musical instrument as a gift, say, a piano. That piano represents our free will. We can do with that piano as we choose. We can pound away at the keys, creating a cacophony of noise, but never producing any real music. That would be the route of disobedience, or rather, obedience to our own will, to our own desires. Or we can choose to find obedience to the classical rules of the piano. We can train all day, play the scales, learn the notes, and adhere to the science of music. Eventually, our music will become so desirable that people will flock from far away to see us play. That is the route of obedience to God.
The same goes for sports. What fun would a football game or a tennis match be if nobody obeyed the rules? It wouldn’t be fun. It would be mayhem. Taking the limitations, the rules, and the guides that we are given and expressing our free will through obedience is where we find beauty. That’s where we create a masterpiece out of our lives and it’s where we can show the most love to the people around us.
Listen to the whole segment below:
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