In recent weeks, I've been holding the concepts of faithfulness and obedience side by side. I sense intuitively--or maybe it's that I know experimentally--that the two are different in some way, and I haven't been quite ready to explore how.
And then I came across a short post from Friendly Mama, in which Mary Linda reflects on her own inward turning to a readiness of being obedient and of service.
Here's an excerpt of a comment I left:
Obedience has been a word that has been "traveling" with me, too, of late....The distinction feels important to me, so I'm going to take a whack at pulling the threads apart and see what comes of it.
Like you, I went through a subtle but important turning point in my faith journey among Friends, during which I shifted from "participating in the meeting" to "offering myself to the Spirit," making myself available to serve.
Need I say that my life as a Friend really hasn't been the same since...?!
It seems to me that it is a weightier matter to be obedient than it is to be faithful, though both are important within Quakerism. At first glance, I might attribute the sense of weightiness to the frequency with which these two words are used among Friends: it's almost as though the less frequent a word is used (i.e. "obedience"), the more weight is given to it.
The early query, which still is used here and there among Friends today, is "Was thee faithful, did thee yield?" It wasn't "Was thee obedient, did thee yield?"
Is there a reason why the one query exists in Quaker vernacular but not the other?
Is there an implied greater degree of difficulty, that to lay aside one's own ambition in order to be obedient is more difficult when compared to acting faithfully to an inward prompt, for example?
Does the faithful act already draw upon an unspoken or innate "alignment" between what we personally wish to pursue and what we understand God asks or instructs us to pursue? Does being obedient entail acknowledging and feeling our inner tantrum in the face of recognizing that God wants us to do the very thing we don't want to do?
So when it is "compared" to faithfulness, does obedience point to more intense labor and wrestling before we finally yield, before our own will is broken in order that we might follow God's? Does obedience require more of us--more humility and being low in order to allow ourselves to become an instrument of the Spirit?
Of course, the questions and the answers to them are rather insignificant in the Big Picture. It is far more important that we live into being faithful and obedient servants than it is to understand why or how faithfulness and obedience differ.
But these questions have been with me, and now they are with you as well. Thanks, as always, for reading me.