You must definitely obey the Lord your God’s voice, keeping all his commandments that I am giving you right now, by doing what is right in the Lord your God’s eyes! Deuteronomy 13:18 (CEB)
This past summer, we installed an invisible fence around the perimeter of our yard for our two dogs. The dogs wear a special collar that is programmed to emit a high beeping sound when they get to close to the boundary of the fence. If they cross the boundary, then they get a slight vibration. (I tested this collar on my arm before I put it on the dogs, and it doesn’t hurt them–just in case you’re wondering.)
The key to the success of this fence is training. For several weeks after the fence was installed, we took the dogs outside on a regular basis and taught them the boundaries of the yard. The training taught the dogs to both recognize and obey the boundaries we had put in place. Now, we can confidently leave the dogs alone in the yard and trust that they will do what they’re supposed to do.
That said, our Newfoundland likes to test the boundaries every now and then. If you’re unfamiliar with the breed, here are two things to know about Newfies:
- They’re huge.
- They’re stubborn.
Our Newfie knows where the boundaries are, he just doesn’t always care. If another dog is walking down the street and he wants to say hello, he’s perfectly fine taking a hit and charging through the fence. In those moments, he is choosing the instant gratification of disobedience rather than sticking to the boundaries we’ve marked for him.
After roaming the neighborhood for awhile, we drag him back across the boundary line and keep him close to us for a week or so. (Actually, we ban him from the front yard, which is where he likes to break free,) During this time, we teach him (again) the boundaries of the yard and insist that he respect those boundaries.
In Alicia Britt Chole’s 40 Days of Decrease, she describes obedience as an ongoing process “connected by countless moments”. Obeying God is not something we do one time, but rather, something we consciously decide to do each day (or maybe multiple times a day). Chole writes:
…when we hear Jesus’ “Come, follow Me,” our opening “Yes!” and the Father’s closing “Well done!” are connected by countless moments in which we discern and reconfirm our decision to follow over and over and over again. (pg. 105)
I see a connection here between obedience and grace. None of us are going to be obedient to God all the time. We’re human. We make mistakes. Like our Newfie, we sometimes choose the instant gratification of disobedience over God’s commands and plans. However, our momentary failures do not prevent us from continuing on our path to obedience. God extends his grace to us and says, My sweet child, let’s try this again.
God doesn’t banish us to the backyard when we disobey. Instead, he flings the front door of his love wide open and beckons us through. God patiently teaches us and instructs us again and again and again.
Today, instead of fasting, let’s partake of God’s grace. Let’s confess our acts of disobedience and accept the love and forgiveness and mercy of a loving father and teacher who wants what is best for his children. Let’s accept grace and recommit to a life of obedience.
Blessings and Peace,