By obedience a man is guarded against pride. Prayer is given for the sake of obedience. The grace of the Holy Spirit is also given for obedience. This is why obedience is higher than prayer and fasting. (St. Silouan the Athonite, Writings, XV.4)"No throwing." I say calmly. My two year old narrows his little eyes, pulls back his little hand and without taking his eyes off of mine defiantly launches the toy phone over the gate to the tile floor below. I walk over and open the gate. "Pick it up" I say quietly. No movement. "Yes Mama" I prompt. "No Mama" he replies. I crouch down at his level and look in his eyes. "Yes Mama" I repeat. "Yes Mama" he finally concedes. It is quite a fascinating, sometimes frustrating, thing to watch a two year old exert his will. It may be cute on a two year old but and eight year old, twelve year old, twenty year old...not so much.
I have always thought we must look like that little defiant two year old to God and I think it's usually not until you are a parent that you understand the importance of obedience. Before I had children I couldn't understand why my mom made such a big deal over me being a few minutes (or hours) late. I didn't understand the importance of cleaning a bedroom that was just going to get messy again anyway. It wasn't until I became a parent myself that I understood the verse that says obedience is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). Within two days of my first child being born, I called my mom and apologized for all the stress I'd put her through in my life.
How do we teach our children obedience? Partially through raising them up in the "training and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4) but also by example. How can we expect them to obey if we do not first model it through our own joyful obedience to the Lord and by honoring the authorities we have over us. Obedience is so much bigger than a clean room or being on time. Our training is not only to have a more peaceful home, but our homes are the "bootcamps" the Lord has provided for our children so when they are finished they will know Who they serve and they will know how to obey His commands to fight against the enemy of their souls.
O Lord my God, fill me with Your love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control and mercy as I train my children to be obedient to me, and more importantly to You. Instruct me in denying my own will that I may walk in obedience. I confess I rely on my own mind and my own understanding often and attempt to train my children in my own strength. Forgive me and be a bright light to my path, take me by the hand and lead me to walk in humility so my service to You may benefit my children. Amen.