what's on the other side of obedience: a 10 year old story

What’s on the other side of obedience

A ten year old story that grows richer with age


3,650 sunrises. That’s my story. It’s the side I’m standing on and there’s no going back. You know that moment you tried french fries in your frosty and you’d never dip them in ketchup again? That moment you laughed so hard you snorted, the embarrassing moment passed, and you knew your friendship just went to another level?

Life is the way it was intended to be lived on this side of obedience.

Well, how do I get there?

What will it cost me?

Is anyone else doing it?

What’s in it for me?

Let me check my calendar.

If I’ve got nothing else to do, I’ll think about it.

Yeah. You’re not ready.

The basic definition of obedience is submission to another’s authority. Our another being the Perfect Son of God, who, “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)

You’re ready when you submit. Submission - it’s been deemed an old-fashioned word because our world gets more and more selfish, so anything requiring obedience or submission gets ridiculed. So you have to get over that first.

But standing on this side of obedience, submission is worth it! It’s the most freedom I’ve ever experienced. If you know Jesus, you know He does everything backwards and upside down from this world. He says bow low and He’ll lift up. He says last will be first. He says to be rich become poor. I’m still progressing on my faith journey learning from my Maker, but I’ve gotten a few years behind me to taste and see that the Lord, He is good and He is worth following. He’s worth obeying.

And since obedience is active, to stay bogged down with our self-filled questions keeps you on the side of disobedience.

Are you ready now?

Let me tell you a story.

On January 18, 2009, me and Ben and 4 other friends, boarded planes from three different states out of obedience. No, God didn’t say “board a plane.” We did sense God’s prompting us to the Bay Area of California to start a church, and well...boarding a plane was an early necessary step.

January 18th was also day 50 of our 50 day prayer guide - a guide the 6 of us had written together on a shared document. We weren’t sure what to pray, but because we told God we’d obey, we started to pray for everything that came to mind. And if one of us was feeling it, we assumed someone in the group was too.

God, if we’re hearing You right, will you open doors for us to move?

God, take away anything that is keeping me from listening and trusting and following You.

God, I’m afraid. And I don’t think the others have a mountain of confidence either. Bring Your peace. Come near. Give us courage.

To be honest, I don’t remember a single prayer, but I’d imagine they went something like this!

January 18th was also the day we landed in San Francisco, using our own money to cover flights, childcare back home, meals, hotel, and transportation. And we didn’t have a heap of that either.

Obedience will cost you something. Okay. Alot of things.

I’m not proud of this. None of us are. But these are the stories that aren’t funny living them, but always funny telling them years later. The six of us shared one hotel room that came standard with two beds not even in the city limits. Ben and I, being the mature leaders of the bunch, said we’d sleep on the floor for the first night and then we’d rotate with the other couples. But after miles of city walking and our heads hurting from taking so much in, we revamped our plan.

We pushed the beds together. I think the other 4 might have stood by and watched. We would all sleep together. Besides, we were 3 happily married couples sharing one hotel room with hearts ready to sacrifice for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Ben gave us two rules: You had to sleep by your spouse on one side and a person of the same gender on the other. If your spouse got up in the middle of the night, so did you.

Others will want to obey as they witness your obedience.

It worked. Everyone followed the rules.

After day one of sight-seeing the city of San Francisco, we were ready to be about God’s work and explore suburbs around the bay area with open minds and receptive hearts. Or so we thought. Our eyes were wide open going about city. For many reasons. Culture shock was doing everything imaginable to our insides. The 50 prayers we had prayed had us experiencing God revealing this and pointing out that and tugging on our hearts. I don’t know if we said much that day. Our tour guide was a local who had a heart of compassion for this city and was taking us to places off the beaten path. The 7 of us watched Obama’s Inauguration at City Hall with thousands of others - socks for the homeless was the entry fee. We drove by a potential school for our kids that had homeless encampments at all corners of the block. We pulled into a McDonald’s parking lot to take a breather and get back out there. We walked up and down Market Street and tried a start-up coffee called Blue Bottle. Our guide served us something covered in seeds and we grinned and nodded in appreciation. We even had pho for dinner and that took our southern palates to a whole new level!

Obedience introduces you to incredible people and takes you to incredible places.

Why wouldn’t we say yes to this? It had all the signs of hard and messy and broken. We took the next few days with our tour guide to drive around Palo Alto, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, and places in between. Those were the places that made sense. There was parking lots, drive-thrus, spaces to start a church, homes with green lawns. Surely God would pick one of these places for us.

It was the last evening of our trip before we flew home the next day. We were driving down to San Jose to have dinner with a one year old church planting team. They would be God’s physical example that we weren’t crazy for what we were thinking and experiencing. As we got close to their home, we pulled over into a parking lot (they are a common occurrence in suburbs). We finally started talking out loud. All that was happening in our hearts and minds was forming sentences and scary ideas. One by one we began to say, “San Francisco.” Our hearts couldn’t beat any faster, our eyes couldn’t get any wider, our mouths couldn’t form bigger grins. We were unanimously saying we were to move to San Francisco to start a church. Not because it made sense. Not because it was an easy choice. But because it was obvious. Because we had prayed about it and believed this was of God. Because San Francisco felt right and the suburbs felt wrong for us. God needed us to say yes to San Francisco. He needed our friends Andy and Stacie to say yes to San Jose. He needed David and Cindy to say yes to Mountain View. He needed Ed and Rebekah to say yes to Oakland.

Obedience is a series of yeses.

Somehow, saying yes to God doesn’t make a lot of earthly sense. Out of the six of us, we had friends and family who thought we had lost our minds. Our news shocked most people. But you’re reading this story on this side of obedience. And it still wows me like it did on January 18, 2009. I’m so glad we said yes. Why?

Our obedience leads to others finding Jesus.

Because you’re curious....That tour guide is a mentor and cheerleader for us to this day. Thanks to her, Ben eats pho often and our kids take bars with seeds for school lunch. The McDonald’s is no longer there, rather high-rise apartments. Blue Bottle is a thing and our church is on Market Street. The potential school is now a partner of our church and Lindsey is there all the time! Churches have been planted in all of the suburbs mentioned because while God is working in you, He’s also working in others.

Obedience? Yes, more people are doing it than you realize!

Maybe you follow this journey on Instagram or Facebook. I’d love to be a regular in your inbox. By regular, I mean once a week. This means you are a “subscriber” and I call you my “neighbor.” To put it in Mr. Roger’s words, “please won’t you be my neighbor?”