I wrote something for work. The project took about two hours, but when I was done, I was pretty happy with it. I didn't hear anything for a couple of days, and when I finally got it back, the project was completely rewritten. Brand new message. The introduction was mine.
At first I was annoyed. For all kinds of reasons that really don't matter. My job now was to proof and edit the new project and distribute it.
And that bugged me. I told myself it didn't matter. I said, "I'm over it." And then I got honest with God. It did matter. It bugged me. A lot.
"Jesus," I said, "this really bothers me, and I don't know why. Of course, I'll do as I'm supposed to. I can submit. I'm good at submission."
And I immediately felt the Holy Spirit's conviction. "No you're not."
I responded with indignation. Really? I'm not good at submission?
I had been walking back to my car, and I stopped. I realized that what I'm good at is doing smiling while I do what I'm told even when I don't want to. That is not the same thing as submission.
This realization was little disturbing since the Bible tells us repeatedly to submit.
And so I began thinking and praying about the differences between submission, which apparently I'm not good at, and obedience, which apparently I am good at.
Basically, obedience is external. When I obey, I do as I'm told. My obedience doesn't necessarily reflect what's in my heart. I can cling to pride, thinking I'm right and whoever told me to do this crazy thing is wrong. I can obey rudely, or I can obey and pretend to be fine with it. Either way, God sees my heart, and he knows what I'm thinking. He knows if I'm obeying with a submissive heart, or if I'm just doing as I'm told.
Submission means to defer power or authority to another person or authority. Submission is humble. Submission allows another person's goals to take precedence over my own. Submission involves trust.
I do this sometimes, but not always. Sometimes I just obey.
Submission and obedience may look the same on the outside, but God sees the difference.
Submission includes servanthood; legalistic obedience does not.
This conversation with God started because of a work project, which I immediately began praying about. I want to submit to God, and that means that I must submit to leadership established by God.
And then I started thinking about the passage on submission in Ephesians 5, where Paul writes that we should means submit to "one another out of reference for Christ" (Ephesians 5:21). I began thinking about what it means to submit to my husband (Ephesians 5:22), and what it means to submit to God (James 4:7).
I'm still thinking about that.