Obedience Motivations

12 09 2010

In Sunday School today, we had a lesson about obedience. We focused a lot of time on one paragraph in our manual, which said:

“Each of us should ask ourselves why we obey God’s commandments. Is it because we fear punishment? Is it because we desire the rewards for living a good life? Is it because we love God and Jesus Christ and want to serve Them?”

It’s obvious what the answer should  be. But I was more interested in what the answer, for me, was.

I thought about myself and my motivations. I’ve always been obedient, and I never did have a time where I felt like I needed to rebel in a large way. I try–very hard, actually–to  keep God’s commandments. But why do I do it?

I frankly told my class that a lot of times I think I obeyed for the reward, the promised blessings. Throughout the rest of the class I pondered that, and wondered how I could change that to obeying because I love God.

I mean, I do love God. But is that why I obey Him? I started thinking about each motivation to obey as a different step. Problem was, I could see how in some things I stand on more than one step at a time.

Then I started thinking about my mom.

I love my mom. Heck, pretty much everybody loves my mom.  Still, I started thinking back to my childhood and how she would  make me do chores. I loved her when I was a kid, but I hated to do my chores.

I only did them because I would get in trouble if I didn’t.

Hmm. Sound familiar?

Eventually, I got to where I would do them because it was easier than arguing. Besides, I knew that if there was anything I wanted to do, any special privilege I needed her permission for, she was a lot more likely to say yes when I had done what she’d asked without giving her grief.

(Digression: We used to always ask Mom what she wanted for her birthday and Mother’s Day and Christmas, and she would always say, “Happy kids.” I didn’t get that until I had kids of my own. Now I always ask for the same thing. “Just stop fighting for an entire day and it will be the best present ever!”)

Curiouser and curiouser.

Today, when I go to visit my mom, I look for things to do for her. I wash dishes, I sweep floors, I weed, I vacuum. I do it because I only see her twice a year and I’m not able to help her out as much as I’d like to.  I do it because it gives me joy to make her life easier.

I do it because I love her.

That’s my challenge, then. To take something that is hard, that I perhaps don’t like doing, and figuring out how to love to do it because I love the person I’m doing it for. Possibly in this, practice really does make perfect.




7 responses

12 09 2010

So well said. And you’re right…I think everyone does love your mom. For me, it’s more and more as I get to know her. That’s probably part of the same process. The better we get to know Him, the more we love him and want to be obedient.

13 09 2010

This is something I need to put a lot more thought into. Thank you so much for sharing this.

13 09 2010

Sniff sniff. That’s so beautiful! So true! So exactly like the experience of pretty much every mother’s child. I love it. It’s the perfect analogy.
I’m going to write a really long comment. No, really, it’s the longest comment ever. Ready?

Last week, wrestling with four during a very long Sacrament Meeting (aren’t they always long?), I had the thought pop into my head – “Why are you here?”
Why indeed. I had NOOOOOOOOOOOOO idea. None. I wasn’t there to be obedient, that wasn’t it. I wasn’t there because it was a wonderful experience, that certainly wasn’t it. I couldn’t even think of a single, solitary reason. I tried, but nothing fit. Nothing. A complete blank.
Then, the last testimony-bearer got up and very loudly asked, “WHY are you here?”
Whoa. Even over my whiny, fussy, wiggly kids I could hear him. I almost yelled back, “No idea, brother!”
He said we were all there because we had a testimony. Isn’t it awful to note that I so totally didn’t agree? I still had nothing to put down in answer to that question.

I wasn’t there because a burning testimony moved me there. I wasn’t there to avoid punishment. I wasn’t there expecting to earn some blessing somewhere. I think it was just pure habit. This is simply what you DO on Sunday, you know?

But why??? Why is it just something I do? Why not just give up and let the little monkeys run wild? I could still bring them to Primary…
Maybe at least part of the reason is that I love God. Yeah. Maybe that’s why I keep going back for more torture every single Sunday. I’ll have to think about it some more. Thanks ever so much for giving me lots of great food for thought.

13 09 2010

Good post. I’m still in the “seeking reward” phase. I’ll have to ponder that.

14 09 2010

I read this yesterday and it really hit me. Why do I do what I do? I want it to be for love. This morning when I heard the kids awake and looked at the time I knew I needed to help them get out the door for school. I could get out of bed because I feared the punishment-having to drive them to school, or because I seek the reward- a quiet house, or because I love them- I want them to have a smooth morning riding the bus and having a good day at school. The first two motives are so self-centered/selfish. I feel kind of bad for even thinking them!
This idea of being obedient out of love of God is something I’ve heard before but never really thought of. I think I want to change, be better motivated. And I think it will lead to better obedience.

20 09 2010
Mrs. Olsen

Beautiful post Wendy. Great analogy about your cute momma and a good discussion to have with yourself.

20 09 2010

I love this. Thanks for sharing it and for giving me something to think about, again.

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