I remember the feeling well. The perfectionist, people-pleasing part of my personality was fighting to have just one more small victory. Just tell them, I told myself. And I so wanted to.
It was my sophomore year of college and I had the awkward task of telling my small group I could no longer go on the mission trip we had planned for part of winter break. The thing is, I didn’t have a neatly packaged answer as to why. Instead, a knowing slowly grew over time within my spirit, telling me quietly, but confidently, that the trip was not what God had planned for me.
It’s not God’s will for me to serve Him on a local mission trip? I had a hard time coming to terms with that. Even more, I had a difficult time officially leaving the group because there was also another lesson at play here: God also didn’t want me to explain why.
Did I mention I’m a people pleaser? Because this one small part of obedience to God felt like it killed me inside. I worried about what people would think of me and where my heart was if I abruptly left for no reason.
An explanation would have helped me to feel justified before my friends and mentors. And that’s exactly why God wanted me to keep it just between me and Him. In truth, the only reason I craved justification is because of my pride, my worry about what others thought about me. In this circumstance, glory to God rested in the quiet obedience between Him and I. I needed to know and trust that pleasing God was enough.
After informing the leaders of my decision, I returned home for winter break with lingering questions and frustrations. I didn’t understand how this could possibly be a good thing.
A few days after being home, I got a call from a close family friend who needed me to drive her to the hospital. She was in, or at least nearing, her third trimester.
I don’t remember how long we were there, but I do recall sitting in the waiting room and feeling a rush of gratitude to God. I was, and still am, grateful I was able to be there for someone who means so much to me. Thankfully, this story ends well, but it may not have. We never really know how things will pan out; in this instance, I just felt humbled to be someone that others can depend on. I’m thankful my obedience to follow the Lord’s leading gave way for an unexpected blessing.
After returning to campus the following semester, I so longed to explain myself once more to the friends I had bailed on. It would be a way to glorify the Lord, to show how He works, I told myself. But still, deep inside I knew it was a way for me to clean my slate and try to justify myself. It’s now been five years since this all took place, and I’ve only shared the truth of what happened with a couple of friends.
I still struggle with people-pleasing, but when I do, I try to remind myself of the unexplainable sweetness that comes from choosing to obey God’s leading, even if no one else understands, even if no one else even knows.
Jesus exemplifies this time and again throughout the gospels. He lived a life of holy obedience to the Father at all times and in all circumstances, from the public square to the temple, even alone in the wilderness.
During a recent rereading of the Book of John, I was struck by the quiet nature of Jesus’ work in his first miracle on earth.
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
Did you catch it?
In this gospel account, the bridegroom gets the praise for having accomplished what was really the work of Jesus. This was Jesus’ opportunity to say, “Hey, here I am! This is who I am. Look at what I’ve done.” But he doesn’t.
Only the disciples know what has taken place here. And they believed.
When He calls us to it, may quiet obedience be enough for us as we walk with Him.