Obedience – How that word still heckles me!
It is not a popular word today. But it’s the word that came to mind today, as a source of peace and grace.
Let me briefly take you on a little journey… with 2 ‘icon’ style images – one is of Gethsemane (an authentic Greek icon) – the other is a photograph I took and stuck onto a block. This is a photograph of a painting I did and this is the story of the painting:-
In 2009, I was reading Revelation (1:12-20) and I felt the command to “paint what you see”. This was unusual for me; I didn’t enjoy painting and to paint something so prescriptive was just not my cup of tea. But the thought persisted, so 2 months later, I began to research various styles of menorah (golden lampstands) and to design some of my own and sketch out a composition… Then I bought a large canvas and began to paint the “one like a son of man” and the menorah and all the various symbols, till each one was in place. I didn’t like the painting; technically it was very weak and style-wise – just not my thing. But I was stuck. I didn’t know how to finish the painting. I hadn’t depicted the alpha and the omega nor what I kept calling “the glory”. I was in a bad place emotionally (and therefore also spiritually) in my life and kept crying to God that I no longer knew what “the glory” was! So I covered the canvas with a sheet and it sat in a corner gathering dust. In 2019, visiting my family in Orkney, I suddenly remembered the painting and knew I had to finish it. I heard the same patient command. No annoyance; no condemnation; no mocking; just a repeat… so I came home and added the ‘alpha and the omega’ and ‘the glory’. This time I knew what to do. I finished the painting, amazed that it took 10 years to complete! Amazed that God still cared for me to finish it. The painting is technically still not great, nor is it still ‘my style’, but now I love it. The painting hangs in my bedroom above the keyboard on which I plink-plonk the praise songs I’m learning… It reminds me that He will come again in Glory; it reminds me that He loves all His different churches and that His Glory shines on them all as they gather around Him. It reminds me that He’s so patient and is not finished with me yet, but the work He has begun in me, He will bring to completion.
Also, very briefly, the garden of Gethsemane icon – it spoke to me over and over for a year, saying,
“Can you not watch with me for one hour?.. Watch and pray, so that you will not fall into temptation. The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak .” (Matt 26:40-41)
Eventually I obeyed Him, and that hour is my daily life source and blessing. He was so patient.
He does not condemn. He knows what we need and desires us to receive, but He doesn’t force us. When we obey, we (and often others) receive the blessing. If we do not obey, He waits until we allow Him to bless us. We can never out-give God. Whatever we give Him, He multiplies beyond measure.
I saw today the other image of Him in Gethsemane – praying,
“My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may Your will be done.”
Even Jesus did not always want to obey, but He chose to do so. He understands our weakness and temptations, but He overcome and He gives us a way out, in His strength. Take heart. Be strong and courageous, for He has overcome the world. He did it for the joy set before Him and now He intercedes for you and me in the Father’s throne room. Amen.
‘I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
“Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”’
Revelation 1:12-20 (NIV)