Obedience and Commitment

Saint  Benedict's Ladder of Humility
Ladder of Humility
Ascend by descending
Image by Edith OSB via Flickr

Next week, the Oblates of our monastery will be meeting to discuss the vow of obedience, its meaning to them in their secular lives, and the experiences of it that are common top all who follow the Rule of Benedict.

One of the short articles I have chosen for them points to the seeming dichotomy between obedience and freedom – usually taken to mean “I can do what I want.”. That notion of freedom elevates transient desires and feelings – perhaps the result of too little sunshine, lack of fitness, or other physical factors – into the driver’s seat of our lives. If following our current desires is freedom, the commitments we freely made become constraints – external, unwanted, obsolete.

Obedience – following through on one’s commitments – is a necessary condition to real spiritual freedom. When we make a commitment after thoughtful deliberation, we are seeking to engage our hearts, mind, talents and time in an important endeavor.

We see this easily when the goal is, say, building a house: we follow the building code, the laws of nature, and the limitations of our budget and plan. The spirituality of obedience helps us to see the same dynamic in building a work team, a monastic community or family, a friendship. There are rules and methods to be followed, boundaries to be kept, obligations to be met.

In the thick of living out these relationships, we may only notice the rules and methods, and long for freedom. The spirituality of obedience helps us to keep at it long enough to move into the new “home” we have built be sticking to the course we set.

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