OBEDIENCE - A Faith decision

Obedience is the road to freedom
-C.S. Lewis

The dictionary definition of Obedience is "compliance with an order, law or submission to another's authority".  By this definition, Obedience seems to be in direct conflict with self preservation and the American Dream to amass wealth and belongings for one's self.  In our day to day lives, we pass homeless people on street corners, drive-by wounded animals to die on our highways forgetting about them and their agony seconds after we speed past them, and fail to acknowledge other people with a smile, look or response when they speak to us.  We can become so focused on our own microcosm that we think we are being "obedient" to our own goals.  In fact, we can never be "obedient" to ourselves or our own self interest.  We must stretch beyond ourselves in order to exercise true obedience, and be free.

True obedience can only occur when we suppress our own wants and needs to the wants and needs of another.  Obedience starts with a very basic decision.  The decision to choose another over one's self.  A decision to truly love, be selfless and forsake our own being and self interest.

When I speak to church groups, I talk about this point a lot.  I draw a parallel to the story about when Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of the last supper, before he was betrayed.  Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen.  He knew one of his own would betray him, he would be arrested, tried and sentenced to die a horrible death by flogging, beating, ridiculing, torture and crucifixion.  In the Garden at Gethsemane that night, Jesus spoke to God and asked God to not make Him die this painful, horrible death.  At the end of that request, He chose obedience and said choose "not my will, but (choose) your will"  Matthew 26:39.  We all know what happened next - an innocent person who had never sinned, died a horrible, painful death according to another's will.

This is the example of Obedience that I try to follow in my own life.  During my run across America, I had a "Gethsemane Moment" which shook me to the core and tested my Faith and Obedience in a very real way.  I had just ran through California and had crossed the Arizona state line.  I hated the desert in California and felt a dark presence out there.  I figured I was home free as soon as I got to Arizona, and somehow an imaginary line on a map somewhere would stop that dark presence from harassing me any further.  Well, I was wrong.

I was running against traffic on the shoulder of a road toward a T-intersection.  An RV was turning left at the intersection towards me.  An impatient car wanted to overtake the RV, and chose to do so in the breakdown lane.  As soon as their light turned green, the RV made a left hand turn and headed toward me; the car sped to pass the RV.  I couldn't really see what was happening but I heard vehicles accelerating and engines revving.  Before I knew it, I saw the car speeding head-on at me in the breakdown lane.  The RV was also speeding because it apparently did not want the car to pass it.  I froze.  

In my mind all I thought was, "this is how it ends."

The car surpassed the RV and swerved in front of the RV missing me by 2 feet.  My whole body was shaking and I felt adrenaline coursing through my veins.  I just wanted to fall down and cry.  My Mom had driven up the road and did not witness the event.  When I was able to, I began walking.  I walked slowly contemplating what had just happened, and what had almost just happened.  When I got to where my Mom had parked the van, I walked over and sat in the van.  My Mom urged me to get running so we could get to our stopping point for the night and get a good night's rest.  I told her to hang on, and tried to explain what had just happened.  She could not internalize my brush with mortality and the emotions it had drummed up within me.

I sat in the van with my head in my hands.  All I could think was that I almost died.  I almost lost the ability to ever see, touch and talk to my kids again.  I would never have seen my grandkids.  Then, I began thinking about the effort to run across America.  I thought, "This is a stupid run.  What's the point?  Am I supposed to die out here because of some idiot driver?"  I considered calling the entire thing off, and heading straight back to Colorado at that point.  I was questioning whether the run was worth risking my life over.  I have taken risks in my life, but they have always been calculated risks.  Risks where I felt I had control and knew with my pre-planning, effort and awareness I would be able to get through the adversity.  This was wholly different. My life could be ended because of a bone head choosing to drive recklessly.  What a tragic end to my life it would be.

As I thought longer, I thought about why I was running.  I honestly believe it was a Calling.  I was doing this for something much bigger than me.  It was not my personal desire to leave my kids, go into debt, injure my body and risk my life.  It was about having Faith and being Obedient to the Calling.  Truly crossing over and believing in something that has never, and can never be proven.  And more importantly, it doesn't need to be proven for me - that is the whole point of having a deep Faith.  If I truly believed I was called to run across America and I quit because of a human trying to run me over in his car, what would that say about my Faith.  I really wouldn't have any Faith.  If I truly believed this was a Calling, however the run ended would be according to a larger plan.  If I was killed by an errant driver, that would somehow have been according to some larger plan that I am incapable of understanding.  I had to choose to have Faith, or not have Faith.  It was the hardest decision I have ever had to make.

If I chose Faith and died, then I was really trusting that my kids lives would be watched over by something larger than my own understanding.  If I was supposed to make it all the way across America, somehow I would be protected from bad things.  I had never had my Faith tested like this before.  It was 100% an intellectual decision to have Faith, or not to have Faith.  I chose Faith and to be Obedient to another's will; and so I continued running East toward the Atlantic Ocean.  



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