First Person: Obedience Buffet
I love restaurants. Really love them. In fact, I love pretty much any kind of food I don’t have to make myself. I’ve been known to fantasize about being given a job where I’m an undercover restaurant critic who writes articles for the newspaper about local restaurants. They pay my bill, and I spout off brilliant analytics of menu, food, service and ambiance. That would be SO cool. I’ve never been a huge fan of buffets, but once children came along, buffets became the compromise. I still didn’t have to cook, the kids could eat quickly and pick what they want, and it was one step above the drive-thru window on the food chain. (For the record, we don’t eat out nearly as much as I’d like to.)
Unfortunately, it’s very easy and very common to carry this buffet attitude into other aspects of our life. We are our own boss– we have freedom of choice– and all too often, our choices are based solely upon what we want and what we don’t want. My husband and I have discussed the danger of “selective obedience”: picking and choosing the commandments we like while ignoring the ones we’re not so fond of. I’ve seen this in my own children. If I ask Clark to help me set the table, he’s usually quite compliant and jovial even, because he knows it means dinner’s on its way. But if I ask him to pick up the scattered pile of paper scraps left over from his scissors’ frenzy, it’s likely that there will be at least twenty minutes of repeating over and over again, “But I don’t waaaaaant to!” Sometimes they’re even polite about it: “Natalie, will you put on your shoes so we can pick up Grant from school?” “No thanks.” And Grant loves to give me the (lame) reason why he’d rather not do something I asked, “But mom, my legs are just too tired to put my backpack away.”
I imagine that if I’m going to be completely honest with myself, I could improve in my obedience too. Have you ever been to those enormous buffets in fancy hotels? They have their foods sectioned off by categories. So imagine the following three sections of the “Obedience Buffet”: 1) There are the things we know we should do because Jesus laid it out quite plainly in the scriptures– like forgive an offender, pray daily, or put the kingdom of God first on our priority list. 2) There are the things the living prophets counsel us to do– get out of debt, share the gospel with others, do regular personal and family scripture study, etc., and 3) there are also things that the Holy Ghost whispers to us that we should do– get off the computer and attend to your children, stop watching that one reality show that’s your guilty pleasure, or look for the good in this moment and try not to lose your temper. How often do I respond with “I don’t want to,” or “No thanks,” or “But….”?
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said:
“You cannot approach the gospel as you would a buffet or smorgasbord, choosing here a little and there a little. You must sit down to the whole feast and live the Lord’s loving commandments in their fullness. You have been taught the commandments. You know what to do: pray, study the scriptures, fast, pay your tithes and offerings, attend your meetings, partake of the sacrament, magnify your callings and serve others, sustain your Church leaders, make and keep sacred covenants, share the gospel, be honest, true, chaste, benevolent, and virtuous.”
So basically, this is the one time that we are allowed– no, actually encouraged– to pig out! Take it all in because each commandment comes with a blessing, and passing it by means rejecting the power and joy it could bring.
Matthew 5:6 says, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”
I tell my kids all the time, “I’m not asking you if you want to, I’m asking you to do it.” I can just imagine Heavenly Father saying the same thing to me: Just go say a prayer, Stephanie, you’ll feel so much better. I know you’re tired, but your children need you to love them and teach them right now. I will bless you and strengthen you. Stop focusing on all that stuff that doesn’t matter, just do what I asked and you’ll be fine.
“If you will follow the Christ, follow his prophet, and follow his Spirit, you will always choose the right. As a result of your wise choices, your testimony will grow stronger, and great blessings of joy, happiness, and peace will be yours.” –Elder Wirthlin
And let’s face it, that’s way better than what I could cook up on my own.