from a REBORN listserv discussion: why are we obedient, and where is the joy?
this was written for REBORN this afternoon, where someone had asked the title question. Praise God for REBORN and all the other little gatherings where we can speak about God in relative peace and safety.
Dear [name], and the rest of the gang, peace and good.
You wrote three reasons for being obedient to the Lord. Summarized as 1) don't want to go to hell, 2) know God will make life miserable, and 3) God's the boss.
I'd like to add a fourth: God's my first love. He is all-good and deserves all my love. So I want to do all things to please him, and nothing that would displease him or that would be unworthy of being loved by him. I fail a lot, but fortunately he's a very forgiving lover, I refuse to give up reaching up for his embrace, and he refuses to give up on me.
That awful night in a strange neighborhood in the back seat of the Youth for Christ leaders' car was the first time I was truly aware of this --- though I knew and believed the words (no cradle-Catholic can avoid it, it's part of the standard prayer set memorized by small children). The folk who've been here at REBORN a while know the incident: as a young teenager carpooling home from a Jesus music concert, I was taken to a area I didn't know and was refused going home until I denied that Jesus was a part of my life and recited the "sinner's prayer" with them. So I'm inconsolably weeping in the back seat, having just been an absolute failure, denying the Lord had any place in my life, while the two grownups are singing praises in the front seat; and I just could not see how Jesus and I could ever be on decent terms again after this ---forgiven, yes, but truly restored, not really. Except it was, yes really! The Lord was still there for me as I wept, though it took a month's work with a really good confessor before I could forgive myself, Jesus was not so tardy about his forgiveness. All kinds of things are important, but the only thing that really matters in the end is that I love Jesus and Jesus loves me, everything he loves I must come to love, and everything that is disappointing or loathesome to him must be put far away from me, no matter how often I fail at that.
We fall down, and we get up. If we are fortunate, we get a brushing-off and a hug. And we keep going, until we fall down and get up again.
"O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, meddling, lust of power and idle talk; but give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to thy servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sins, and not to judge my brother, for thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen." ---- Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian