Oohhhh, that gut-wrenching, defense mode inspiring word: Obedience. Many the modern wedding has struck it from marriage vows. Women everywhere have rose up against it; “we will NOT be under a man’s thumb, we are equal and we do not have to obey!” Many a man has promised his betrothed, “no, honey, I don’t want you to obey.” Well, I’m gonna tell you a little secret. I had the word “obey” in my vows. Not because I forgot to think about it and it got left there accidentally. Not because of any sort of religious pressure, parental pressure or affinity for the old ways of life. Nope, I purposefully and truly wanted it in there and I truly meant it. What in the heck? What am I, some sort of old-fashioned hippy dippy dumbo? Well, I don’t think I am (it’s easy for me to judge). I wanted it in there because it’s absolutely beautiful. The intention and true meaning of obedience is like a warm blanket enveloping me in caring, kindness and love.
Of course, I’ll include the “disclaimer” for the keyboard warriors and easily offended the world over. For goodness sake, before you begin your typing rant, read the whole thing. And yes, I’ll also agree, obey and obedience and the expectation of obedience has been abused and misused. Again, read the whole thing. While you’re at it, grab a cup of cocoa or hot apple cider. You’ll be feeling cozy by the end.
There are a lot of circumstances where the expectation of obedience is still the norm. Children are expected to obey their parents (that debate is for a different forum lol). Truly though, we hope our child will obey us when we tell the two year old, “don’t touch the stove, it’s hot.” In this case, quick and unquestioned obedience is a great thing. The parents have good intentions when they say it. They’re not trying to belittle or alter the child’s character. There is no negative consequence to the child for obeying. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Obedience in this circumstance results in the avoidance of an otherwise painful consequence. The request for obedience by the parent’s is rooted in their love for the child.
Of course, the military also requires obedience. Just imagine for a moment what kind of chaos would reign if there were no expectation of obedience in the military. Even just in the shared sleeping quarters, field exercises and kitchen areas! There’s a lot of obedience required to make the military a functioning machine. The first area a person starts is learning how to be blindly obedient. Only once a person has shown themselves competent in this area are they then given skills to learn how to think independently. Most of us would likely agree, if we played the tape through in our heads fully, that an obedient military is much more successful than one where everyone goes about their day independently. The military is not set up this way because the higher ups get their kicks out of lines of robotic privates. It is set up this way because they have to set themselves up for the greatest possibility of success.
And of course, there’s all sorts of examples in our day to day life. Traffic signals, line-ups in stores, dialing a number in a prescribed way so we can actually reach the person we’re trying to call. Millions of little examples of obedience that we tend not to think about and just go about happily doing. Why? Because things work out better for everyone when we do.
Like most people, I am a combination of obedient and rebellious. I have a habit of driving slightly over the speed limit, yet I stop the full 3 seconds at a stop sign; no rolling stops for me. However, I would categorize myself as a bit of a “rebellious spirit” in a lot of ways. I may have ensured the word “obey” was in my vows, but that was because I recognized the love and intention behind the word, not because it was something that came easily to me all the time. Neil jokes, except it’s kinda accurate, that the best way to get me to do something is to ask/tell me to do the opposite.
Now that’s it’s come up again, perhaps I’ll address this whole obey thing in my vows. Why would I give that power to Neil? Truly, I don’t see it as giving away any power. I see it as ensuring peace. Our love is a healthy love. I love him. He loves me. I respect him. He respects me. I trust him. He trusts me. Get where I’m going with this? Love cannot be selfish. And if he truly loves me (which I believe he does) he would simply never ask me to obey him on something that would put me in a worse position. Not physically, financially, emotionally, etc. Someone who is mentally healthy has no interest in being a tyrant over you. He does not have the time, nor interest of setting our marriage up in a way where he prescribes my daily schedule, I blindly obey it, he is king and I am servant. So you may be wondering, ok, so if he’s not asking you to obey in these day to day things, when does the obedience come in? It tends to come into play on some of the bigger decisions in life. I’ll set up a scenario for you:
Let’s say Neil was offered a job in Far Far Away Land. The company would provide us a home, a vehicle, schooling for dependent children. Good medical coverage, a pension and a significant raise. Currently, we’re living close to family and friends we’ve had forever. Do we move to Far Far Away Land to gain a financial advantage or do we stay where we are, working harder for longer, in return for the social comforts of having friends and family near-by? Now let’s say that we discuss the pros and cons of each option. As many of us have experienced, there’s sometimes some fairly big life decisions where there’s no real “right” answer. If we go, it could go really well or really poorly, if we stay it could go really well or really poorly. In my definition of obedience, in this circumstance, it would be up to Neil to make the final decision on this. And it doesn’t stop there. Not only would it be up to Neil to make the final decision, it would also be up to him to make any necessary changes down the road. All I have to do is choose to trust him, which we’ve already established I do. I would be responsible for giving it honest effort if he were to decide to make the move. If I was uncertain or scared I’d have to talk to my own heart and make a decision that I am going to obey and have peace. I will make this move, I will believe that it will go well for us and I will trust him to make the ongoing necessary decisions about if the move is working for our family or not. Can you see how this might take a whole bunch of weight off my shoulders? There are a lot of big decisions we need to make in relationships. What vehicle to purchase, home to buy, community to live in, church to attend. There cannot be two Generals in this one little army. Someone has to be the final person to be the “trigger” person. And just like a General in an army, if Neil is doing his job, he’s not using his authority to do whatever he likes best. He’s using it to make the best decision for the army that is our family. Ever gone out with your significant other and tried to decide where you want to eat? You’re hungry, but you don’t really have a specific craving, so you don’t really care where you eat. Turns out, your other is in the same boat. You both suggest places, but nobody is willing to make the final decision. So you’re both sitting there, all done your errands in the Canadian Tire parking lot, volleying back and forth with, I don’t care where we eat, where do YOU want to eat? You’re both still hungry and getting nowhere!!! Ladies! If you kept that obey in your vows now’s a real great time to use that ammo!
The decision to include obey and to actually obey when necessary regarding my marriage was easy. But as I’ve mentioned, I’m a bit of a rebellious spirit. But man, I wish sometimes I was more willing to be more obedient in more areas of my life! It really would bring me a lot more peace. Having a more obedient spirit would mean I would be better at setting myself personal goals and actually meeting them. I set myself some pretty smart goals! Then I rebel against myself…… GRRRRRRRR If I set myself a personal goal the night before and actually OBEYED it the following day there simply ain’t no version of my self that is going to object to that!! I’d probably feel pretty accomplished and at peace!