learning obedience

Obedience has been on my mind recently. I have this feeling that I need to go through with the Plow Creek meeting as an act of obedience, no matter what I think the outcome will be. And I've also felt Heather and I can proceed towards marriage only when we are given permission to do so, only when God shows us the next step to take together. In other words, proceeding obediently.

At the same time, I've been struggling with a series of frustrations and failures. At the Catholic Worker, in Virginia, and now here. Some friends and family have felt it important to point out that these may be a sign that I'm on the wrong path. And of course they may be right. But I've been wondering if there may be a different lesson in these struggles.

Because Jesus also faced much resistance, rejection, and the apparent complete failure of his ministry. And that wasn't because he was on the wrong path. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews explains Jesus' struggles this way:

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered... (Heb 5.7-8)
The resistance he faced, his frustrations and suffering, these were what taught him obedience.

One thing I've noticed, repeated frustration and failure can really break down our personal ambition. Experiencing our plans fall apart, seeing how easily our desires and intentions can be brushed aside by those more powerful than us (or by uncontrollable circumstances) soon reveals how small and weak our will is. Things don't have to happen just because we want them to. I thought I understood that. But the disappointment in Virginia was crushing; I wanted it so bad, and it was taken away so easily and so arbitrarily (at least it seemed that way at the time). It makes you feel pretty unimportant.

But the breaking of our own will, I think, is crucial to making us open to God's will, to make us ready to obey. Resistance, frustrations, failure, suffering strip away whatever might be driven by pride or ambition, and allow us to continue in more perfect submission to God's intentions. (Which never fail.)

I hope I've been learning that submission, that obedience. Because it feels like I don't have a lot of time left for too many more failures...