I can follow directions. I'm kinda' good at it, actually. If "you're in charge," then I'm very good at trying to understand your expectations, and doing that. But, I'm coming to see (and try to pray about) my tendency to accept "following directions" as the same as "obedience". In my heart, at least these days, I don't think these are the same things.
Following directions for me often looks like this. I hold hard and fast to what you said, and pay even more attention to what you didn't say. Like a good bureaucrat, I look for the room in between what you say and what I really want to do - and maneuver in that space like crazy. Often, I think very carefully about ways that I can ask my clarifying questions to give me the room to maneuver that I desire. And I'm pretty good at coming up with those questions, getting the answers that I want, getting the words from you I need to do mostly what I wanted to in the first place. I'm following the directions I was given - and still not being very obedient when I do that.
And then there's the grumbling. When I can't find the room to maneuver that I want, I don't just outright defy the instruction. No. I follow it. To the letter. Meticulously. Over-zealously. And gripe and moan the whole time. To everyone who will listen to me. I help others gripe and moan. I fan little sparks of frustration into flame. It's my "retribution" I suppose.
And it's not obedience.
As I sat here today reflecting on this - frustrated with my tendency in this regard, praying about it, asking God to help me with this characteristic, I looked up momentarily over my desk. There I have two photographs of Christ carrying his cross. Back bent under the weight. Blood trickling down his face. Thorny crowns piercing his brow. And there's a closeup of his face - and what do I see?
No grumbling. No grumbling...
Serenity. Acceptance. Surrender to God's will. Taking up the cross for love. And no grumbling.
We read about the Garden prayer. "Father, if it be Your will, let this cup pass from me. Not my will, but Your's be done." And no grumbling.
Barely 5 months into formation for a life of acting in the person of Christ, and my grumbling continues. At ordination - if it be God's will - I place my hands in the Bishop's and promise obedience. No - I don't promise to "follow instructions" merely. God save me from being a priest who "follows instructions" only. The bile and bitterness and discord in my own soul that I sew with mere "following instructions" leaves me wanting - I can only imagine what it offers others.
Father, save me from the mistaken "obedience" of "following directions". I seek a life of obedience to You and Your will that is free - free in love, free of grumbling, free of manipulation and maneuvering and the false-martyrdom of miserable half-hearted cross carrying. I rely on Your grace for conversion of the half-hearted heeding of instruction into the obedience of Christ that won our salvation.
Teach me, Father...