Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Glad Surrender/Obedience 05/16/12

I've recently been reading Discipline: The Glad Surrenderby Elisabeth Elliot. It's not a "10 easy steps to discipline" kind of book (as is never the case with Elisabeth Elliot). The author is taking several chapters to lay down the idea of what discipline is (which she closely relates to the idea of being a disciple). As part of this groundwork study, she gives an illustration of discipline and obedience (on pages 35 & 36) that I thought was worth sharing with you:

"Willing obedience is a very different thing from coercion. A college dean once observed that the happiest students on any campus are musicians and athletes. "Why?" I asked. "Because they're disciplined, and they volunteered to be disciplined." People sitting in required lectures are under discipline, and people sitting in the television lounge are "volunteers", but athletes and musicians put themselves under a coach or director who tells them what to do. They delight to do his will. They are actually having fun.

God does not coerce us to follow him. He invites us. He wills that we should will--that is, he wills our freedom to decline or to accept. If we want to be disciples, we place ourselves, like the football player and the instrumentalist, under someone's direction. He tells us what to do, and we find our happiness in doing it. We will not find it anywhere else. We will not find it by doing only what we want to do and not doing what we don't want to do. That is the popular idea of what freedom is, but it does not work. Freedom lies in keeping the rules. Joy is there too. (If only we could keep the joy in view!) The violinist in the orchestra submitted first to the instructor. He obeys the rules laid down by him and handles his instrument accordingly. He submits them to the music as written by the composer, paying attention to the markings for dynamics as well as to notes, rests, and timing. Finally, he submits to the conductor. The conductor tells him, by word or gesture, what he wants, and the violinist does just that.

Is there any image of freedom and joy more liberating than a full orchestra, everybody sawing, tootling, pounding, strumming, blowing, clashing, and hammering away for all they're worth, under direction of the immense energy and discipline of a man who knows every note of every instrument in every concerto and knows how to elicit that note exactly so that it will contribute most fully to the glory of the work as a whole? Compare that image, for example, with other pursuits of "happiness": a county fair on a hot Sunday afternoon, America at leisure, standing in line for cotton candy, standing in line for the roller coaster, standing in line for tickets to the bluegrass concert, shuffling and elbowing through the sweating mobs, babies in strollers crying for ice cream, toddlers screaming for more rides, exhausted parents, vacant-looking teenagers, bored senior citizens. Everybody harried by the teeming crowd, deafened by the noise (shooting galleries, fun machines, amplified music played at the highest possible decibel), looking for fun. Everybody is "free", so to speak, to do his own thing, and the result is chaos and cacophony. The first image, I must confess--when nobody is doing his own thing but everybody is free because he obeys--is somehow vastly more appealing to me.

It is a great relief when somebody else is in charge. He knows what he's doing, and all you need to do is follow directions. You do not rebel at his telling you what to do. You are glad to be told. He knows more than you do, knows the best way to accomplish what you want to accomplish, and you are sure you will be better off with him than without him, happier by obeying by disobeying."

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