"...follow their instructions..."
"Accept their verdict and follow their instructions in every detail." (Deuteronomy 17:11)
Okay, so you think it's so amazing that one of our Boston Terriers is reading the instructions for the new Christmas toy before attempting to demolish it. A lot of folks would say the truly amazing thing is that it's our male Boston Terrier reading the instructions before attempting to demolish it. Sorry for that one guys, but let's face it, we're often the ones found guilty of trying to assemble all those Christmas morning toys on Christmas Eve without first reading the instructions. Why won't Tab C fit into Slot C? Oops, it's because we were supposed to attach Flap A before attempting that Tab C to Slot C step. Guessed we missed that one. You get my drift. I remember early in my ministry I decided to make home-made bread from scratch. I dumped in all the ingredients and wound up with pretty good tasting, but very,very flat bread. An expert bread maker listening to my lament informed me that my bread failed to rise because I failed to follow the instructions about the order of adding the ingredients, and subsequently killed the yeast before it had a chance to make the bread rise.
Trust me, it's not just us men who are guilty of setting the instructions aside and doing it our way, or skipping a few steps that we deem unnecessary for our situation. I can tell you several occasions where folks (male and female) would ask for my help, leave my office with a pretty clear set of instructions about what might prove helpful (and had been helpful for others), only to return frustrated and upset by their failure. When I asked them if they had followed all the things on the list they responded, "Well, I did the first and third thing you said, but I didn't do the second and fourth thing."
Why do we ask for help if we're not willing to follow the instructions of the ones we trust enough to ask? Is it because we think we know ourselves better than the one we're asking so obviously we can take their instructions as sort of mere "guidelines" to be amended as we deem fit? Is it because we're too scared to follow the instructions because we're afraid we'll still fail and then not have a fall-back excuse? Is it because we're misinformed and decide to follow the advice of the many instead of the trusted one we've asked? Is it because we've been hurt before and we're just too scared to really trust? Is it because we just don't want to "waste" the time to do something we deem unnecessary? Is it because we're always looking for the shortcut or quick and easy fix because we've been trained by a "quick-fix" culture? Is it because we can't see the reason for the instruction so we dismiss it without risking following it until we can see an outcome? Is it because................... ?
Please don't get the idea that I'm suggesting we blindly follow without thinking and evaluating the instructions we've been offered. It is critical that our faith and decision making be informed and guided by rigorous evaluating, reasoning, and questioning. However, it seems to me that all too often we are too quick to dismiss the wisdom that might be behind the instructions that have been offered to us. Why waste time -- just dump in all the bread ingredients at once... This is not something new. I suspect this has been the same for ages, thus prompting God's warning to the Israelites in the passage from Deuteronomy. The problem is not new and neither is the result -- more pain.
As I travel through Advent this year I am keenly aware that Christmas is a celebration of the wondrous Divine gift of relationship with God and one another that comes through Christ -- and comes with instructions. Step 1 -- Love God. Step 2 -- Love One Another. They're simple instructions, but ones without shortcuts, even though many have tried -- and failed. I want to enjoy the gift of relationship that God's wisdom offers. I pray that God will help me not to allow any one or more of my excuses to get in the way of following these simple instructions. I pray that God will help me trust in Divine Wisdom. How about you?
Blessings and Peace,
Pastor, Sand Hill United Methodist Church
Boaz, West Virginia
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"...follow their instructions..."