Friday, February 16, 2007

Nice? Or Obedient?

God led you all the way... to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands...Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you." Deuteronomy 8:2,5

Lately if you came looking for me, you'd find me upstairs in my Dream Room watching the second and third seasons of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. And you may be amused, but I'm learning a lot while watching them.

I'm discovering the most while I watch Mary being Nice (with a capital N). So Nice to everybody, in fact, that week following week, her Niceness leads her from one sticky, uncomfortable place to another, giving the writers fodder for dozens of funny episodes as we watch Mary squirm her way out of messes, situations over her head, having to resort to living in frustration, making excuses (as in, downright lying) and hurting peoples' feelings by bailing out, in the middle, of that for which she volunteered.

All for the sake of appearing Nice. To everybody in her tv world.

And watching Mary in the middle of her Because-I-Couldn't-Say-No messes, well, it becomes funny. The center core of a classic tv comedy. But it's become a great visual lesson for me, as well.

Years ago on Oprah, the question was asked, "Does being nice mean letting everyone treat you like a doormat?" I never forgot that show. (By the way, the consensus was 'no.')

Does God want me to be nice? To me, I think He'd prefer that I be obedient. To Him.

And sometimes that means saying no to others, sometimes not even knowing what I'm supposed to be doing at that moment instead. Sometimes God is more concerned that I obey the "No, not this time," which I'm hearing in my heart. He might just need to be reassured that He really is first with me--that He really does call the shots--instead of people.

And sometimes He wants to see if I can love Him enough to face other people being mad at me because I declined doing them a favor... if I can bravely walk with Him while others around me don't understand my choices... and whether He can use me to test others' hearts--and be ok with that. (I pray, "Use me Lord!" but what about the times He uses me where I come off appearing like the bad guy, er, girl? Can I be ok with that?)

Being nice--being kind--is good and is usually the order of the day. But often true, no-holding-back obedience will lead me in a different direction. God knows exactly what He's doing and He has a specific place mapped-out to meet me at the end of my journey. And how sad if, instead, He must go searching for me elsewhere because my Niceness took me to someplace else... leaving me with my journey incomplete...

...because I was so Nice.

"Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." Galations 1:10

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