Last blog post (CLICK HERE to read), I thought I was done with my examination of being obedient. However, a very lovely lady (my wife) criticized my work by saying it was too lofty. She then challenged me to write something a bit more down to earth and practical. So, this post is my attempt, in obedience, to try and offer some practical tips to cultivating the virtue of obedience. Though I certainly am no master, I hope you find it useful.
To start, one should simply submit to lawful authority. For example, obey the speed limit, do not cheat on your taxes, and for Heaven’s sake follow the Ten Commandments! Starting here, with known laws, whether they be civil or Divine, national or universal, is a prerequisite to any type of obedience that God may demand of us when He sends an angel to disclose particular commands, as was the case of St. Joseph. If one cannot be trusted to do these things, then it is a bit of stretch to think that we could develop a docility to obey particular commands specific to our situation.
Developing docility, which is key, is the next step — and so we must obey those who have authority over us. If you are a seminarian, conform to the rules of the house. If you are employed, do what the boss asks of you. If you live in the house of your parents, obey their will and do your best to take their advice. Of course, one must do these with proper respect to the Divine Law. That is, if ever one of these (or anyone for that matter) asks or commands us to go against the Divine Law, then we must refuse. It is to God and God alone to whom we can submit our wills completely.
The next step, which has a couple of sub-steps, is to subdue one’s own desires. The first of these subsets is to put the preference of the other before our own. This can be cultivated by actively deferring to the other when there are options. For instance, if the family is going out to dinner, let others decide where to go. If someone else is driving, then let them. Permit yourself no backseat driving or commenting that they should have parked here or driven there. Just be silent and enjoy the ride. Speaking of driving, another helpful tip is to allow someone to merge by anticipating them and acting accordingly. The goal here in this step is to put the other’s desire before your own.
The second subset, and this one I find particularly challenging, is to refuse to “grumble against His Holy Arrangements.” This is a fancy way of saying NO COMPLAINING! Often it is our tongues, strangely enough, that throw themselves as an obstacle across the path of holy obedience. Though we may be tolerating this or in obedience doing that, it is often our tongues that disclose to us (and the world) that our hearts are not in it. True obedience is to will as the other wills, and to cultivate that attitude we must tame the tongue. It starts with stopping the tongue from complaining grumpily. Then one can truly train the tongue by teaching it to speak blessing and gratitude in place of malediction.
Finally, at least for the purposes of this blog, one must seek to subdue one’s appetites. By this it should be understood that we need to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. In this way we can be more ready to execute the Divine command as we will have trained ourselves not to calculate the costs or worry about what comforts we might have to give up. We can start to learn to do this by mortifying the flesh (i.e., reminding it who the boss is and that the body was made for service, not for comfort). We can begin with simple things: refusing to put condiments on one’s food, for example. Once a week take an ingredient out of one’s food altogether. Decide not to snack between meals. Fast regularly. Wash hands in cold water rather than warm.
Everything, of course, must be covered in prayer. That goes without saying, so I do not list it as a separate step. Without prayer we may fail pitifully or, if successful, we may become prideful and so the center of the universe remains ourselves, rather than the other. Not to mention that it is in prayer where we will most likely recognize and receive God’s messenger when he comes in the first place.
I hope you have found this to be of service. God bless you on your journey!