The other night I tucked Lucy in bed, turned out the light, told her I loved her, and left. I went back upstairs later on to check on her and saw the light was on under her door. I went in, and she was sitting up in bed, working on her Cinderella magna-doodle. I said, "Bedtime is bedtime. Turn out the light and go to sleep."
I went back up again almost an hour later. Once again, the light was on under her door. She was sitting up in bed, working on her Cinderella magna-doodle. I said, "What are you doing?" She was full of a lot of reasons why she should have the light on and be working away instead of obeying. I stood there and waited silently, until finally she crumbled and started to cry. I said, "Yeah, all you're really doing is disobeying. I'm putting this up now, and you won't be able to work on this at all tomorrow." That of course brought on more sobs and cries of "I'm sorry, Mom! I'm sorry I disobeyed you!"
So often, God uses my kids as object lessons for me. Oddly enough (coincidence?), I'm listening to James Macdonald's series "Going Down for the Third Time" on the life of King Saul. Just that night I had listened to "Turning from God"--the portion where Saul does not carry out God's instructions through Samuel and brings back King Agag as a prisoner of war as well as all the spoils left over from the Amalekites. He stands in front of Samuel and says, "I carried out what the Lord asked!" and Samuel replies (which would be funny if it weren't so tragic) "What then is this bleating of sheep I hear?"
Then Samuel asks him why, why he did this thing. "Produce your strong reasons why you did not obey the Lord!" Saul digs himself deeper and deeper claiming "I did obey!" and then "It was the people. They did this, and we brought back the spoils to make a sacrifice to your God." Samuel answers back with one of the key phrases in the whole Bible, "To obey is better than sacrifice." (Or a paraphrase from Anne of Green Gables? "Good behavior in the first place is better than theatrical apologies afterward.")
If you've never heard James Macdonald (he's on my blog roll, check it out!), he can really break it down. He can take a story that happened in 1050 B.C. and make it relevant to me today. I'm really not different from Saul. I've always got an excuse for why I disobey. It's always easy to produce all the strong reasons why I'm doing my own thing, working on Cinderella magna-doodle instead of being obedient and going to sleep.
But there's no excuse for disobedience. Never. None. Not "I obey most of the time" or "My heart was in the right place" or "Look at all the times I do obey!" During this whole debacle with Saul and the Amalekites, God said to Samuel, "I regret that I have made Saul king." Pastor James said something that really cut me to the heart, "Don't make God feel regret. Don't make God say, 'Is that it? Is that her response for all the grace and mercy she's been given?' "
I like the new year, the idea of a fresh start. And the big idea for 2008 for me? It's obedience. All the time. No excuses. No phony reasons. No regret.