Sunday, October 6, 2013

Trust & Obey...but only if I have to...

Twice a year for twelve years, I sang the first and last verse of Trust and Obey. It was my small Christian school's theme song and it signaled the beginning and end of every school year. To this day, I can still sing those two verses with my eyes closed, the words seared into my memory. I am using the Merriam-Webster definition of the word seared here: to burn, scorch, mark, or injure with or as if with sudden application of intense heat.
In case you are still confused, I do not like this song. These aren't glowing terms I am using to describe the song or the memory of singing it with my classmates. While the song and the memory of it represents many years of my life,(and some of those years admittedly were good years) as a whole they aren't joyous years; they are years and years of frustration and a little bitterness.

Even now, seven years after graduating, singing this song in church produces a negative attitude in my soul. (Which says more about my heart than the song, I know.)
Well, I mean, it did. Until the other week. When we sang, not just the first and last verse, but the verses in between. 
See, the first verse talks about joyously following Jesus and how he will only walk with us when we, say it with me, trust and obey:
When we walk with the Lord
in the light of his word,
what a glory he sheds on our way!
While we do his good will, 
he abides with us still,
and with all who will trust and obey.
The fourth verse talks about the sweet fellowship we will have with Jesus when we are able to bodily be in the presence of God and the willing obedience we display, without fear:
Then in fellowship sweet
we will sit at his feet,
or we'll walk by his side in the way;
what he says we will do,
where he says we will go,
never fear, only trust and obey.
For me in that school, this song felt like a holy battering ram, forcing me to do what the school wanted, in Jesus' name. I was to obey them without question, because Jesus said you were suppose to obey those he placed in authority over you. And if I did all that they asked, followed their many rules without fear or questions, Jesus would love me and let me walk with him! 
Two weeks ago we sang this song at church. At first, I wanted to dig my heels in, stand there, hymn book closed and arms crossed. Fool me once, shame on me. But, for whatever reason, I opened the book and sang along, thinking I knew the whole song by heart. I was surprised when I had to look at verses two and three, because they did not fit with the image of the song I carried with me for many years. 
Not a burden we bear,
not a sorrow we share,
but our toil he doth richly repay;
not a grief or a loss,
not a frown or a cross,
but is blest if we trust and obey.

But we never can prove
the delights of his love
until all on the altar we lay
for the favor he shows,
for the joy he bestows
are for them who will trust and obey.

 I don't know about you, but these two verses change the tone of this song for me. It does not hold to the happy clappy spirit of the first and last verse. There are trials and toils, ah but he is there! (I imagine to 'richly repay' something, you need to know what the issue is.) And the trusting and obeying, it gets rewarded. Even if it doesn't get rewarded right away. We are blessed when we trust and obey through the hard times. (Hard times? If you just sing the first and last verse there are no hard times!) That verse three? What a doozey! It is talking about full submission in every area of our life. To fully know and understand God and what He is about, total submission to Him is required. Do you see the result of submission? Favor and joy. 
And before anyone says it, I realize this isn't Scripture. It isn't something to live and die for. But has that ability to speak to our souls when regular words fall short.

I'm not saying that I now, all of a sudden, love this song. I won't choose it at the next hymn sing. My apologies to the worship leaders at my church.But reading and singing these two verses, I don't know. It changed something in my heart. Trusting and obeying isn't something that will instantly make things go well for me or get me good grades.It won't make my life eternally blissful, but it will contribute to the bliss of my eternal life. And through the hard times, understanding who God is and relying on him is what will make all the difference at the end of the day.