There are Christians who intimidate me.
They’d be mortified to know that, because they’re genuinely loving and caring people who are incredibly obedient to God. They have no desire to exalt themselves over others or to be considered more or better. And yet, they intimidate me precisely because of that.
They sacrifice and they obey without trying. Doing the godly thing in any given situation seems somehow instinctive to them and looks as though it comes easily, with no real outward sign of struggle. When I observe them, I can hardly imagine myself responding with the same grace and humility, or doing so with so little seeming effort.
It’s at those moments when I wonder if, despite all my effort, I actually haven’t managed to travel backward in my walk.
I was thinking of all this the other day when I was loom knitting. And, in my attempt to find a pattern, I stumbled across an instructional video. The comments section was a disaster: no one in it could grasp the basic loom knitting stitch. Reactions ranged from bewilderment to frustration to actual anger.
I laughed. Because I’ve been loom knitting for a while now, and I’ve used the basic stitch so much I’ve memorized it. I couldn’t even explain to you how I do it; it just comes easily, and my fingers move naturally, and I blast out five or six rows of stitches without so much as a thought. And as I watched that video, it came to me: the longer we work at something, the simpler it becomes, and Christian obedience is no different.
Recently, I had the chance to witness a situation wherein some Christians really deeply wounded other Christians (to whom I am close). It was awful, and it was a mess, and it made me angry. I was frustrated by my anger. At home, seething, I wondered why it was that I couldn’t feel Christlike about the situation. While others moved through the situation with grace and forgiveness and kindness, I considered writing a firm and condemning letter to the believers who had acted badly. I thought about writing a few pointed and passive-aggressive blog posts dissecting the bad behavior. I wanted to call people and rant and rave.
In the end, though, I didn’t. I recognized my anger, recognized what it would cost me to express it, and – most importantly – recognized how God feels about my anger, about the situation, and how He’d prefer me to respond. After a few days of struggling over this in private, I obeyed His desires. It was a conscious choice that I made with deliberate care: God’s way over mine. And in making that choice I realized I had stepped away from the me of a decade ago, who might very well have given in to one of the temptations to express that anger in a negative way.
Was that act of obedience more of a struggle than I wish it had been? Sure – but it was also less of one than it was a decade ago, and even less of one than it would’ve been a decade before that. Because obedience to God’s word is not something that Christians just manifest entirely and in full the moment they receive God’s grace. That serene, calm, unflinching obedience I see in the believers that often intimidate me has been hard-earned: it is the result of years of struggling to choose God’s priorities over human ones. As soon as I realized that, I recognized that I’m growing,without even realizing I am.
I don’t know if you know believers who seem to just effortlessly manifest a godly, righteous response to most situations. If you don’t yet, you probably will. When you see them, recognize that you’re looking at the result of what is likely years of God’s work: the fruit of the Spirit teaching, time and time again, how humans can choose their holy nature over their sinful one. And recognize, too, that the same process is at work in you.
The struggle to obey isn’t a roadblock. It’s what is helping to teach us, engraving a process of obedience on our hearts. Every time we feel conflicted and ultimately choose what God desires, we’re taking a step closer to being who He wants us to be.