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Obedience to God through People (ouch!)

October 26, AD 2011 6 Comments

I always thought that I could never be a nun because of the vow of obedience they have. Obey a mother superior that tells me what I have to do and what I can’t do? What a limitation. Even priests, having to obey the bishop on where to go and what parish to move to, seemed like an intolerable cruelty to me. “This must prove that I have vocation for marriage, so that I can do WHATEVER I WANT!” I thought.

So last summer, when I felt my “freedom” was being limited by an unfulfilling job, I decided… all by me, myself and I… to quit and do what I really wanted to do. This was all decided in one evening when I had two friends over for dinner. Right after dessert, I sent an email asking for the job I wanted. I was pretty sure it wouldn’t happen, but if it did I was determined to go for it. Well, the answer was yes and before anyone could stop me, I quit my job. My boyfriend, who I thought would be indifferent, freaked out and advised me against quitting my job. I felt like everyone was against me. Even my mom, who tried her best to support me, confessed a year later she was never really for it. I went ahead anyway, without consulting anyone.

It was only with this decision that my boyfriend and I realized we were polar opposites. We almost broke up… several times. I was a dreamer, head-in-the-clouds, going for what I wanted and he was a realist, valuing stability and accepting life’s terrible conditions. I was going against him and against all others close to me who thought it was a bad idea because I knew what was better for me!

Well, a year later that job didn’t work out. Not only that, but I learned A LOT and completely changed my perspective. I realized that job wasn’t good for me after all and I had committed completely to the unknown. And you can’t really love or dedicate yourself to what (or who) you don’t know. It’s been pretty humbling to tell people, “yeah, I messed up” and “you were right”, but I’m also thankful for the “mistake” I made. I see how necessary (although painful) it was for me to learn what I did.

And the main thing I learned? Obedience. Thankfully, throughout this year, my boyfriend and I stayed together and grew alongside each other. It’s true, we’re opposites… but I realized that’s part of God’s plan! We got to know married couples who are also “opposites” and we learned that really just means COMPLEMENTARY. I’m one extreme, it’s true, and he’s another, but we both become better people when we balance each other out. It was one of God’s intention when he gave Eve to Adam as an “adequate help”. It’s a lot of work, but it happens when husbands and wives are obedient to one another. When you realize the other has something I don’t have and he or she helps me and is my complement. And OBEDIENCE comes into play here just like in a religious community. In marriage, spouses vow to be obedient to one another… it’s the mutual submission that Ephesians 5 talks about. You trust that the other will be God’s instrument in balancing out your extreme, and in this way helps you follow the right path. I imagine that just as a priest prostrates himself at his ordination (a very profound and touching expression of obedience), spouses metaphorically prostrate themselves at their wedding to one another, promising to see God in the other.


My main mistake last summer was deciding alone. I got lost along the way, mistakenly doing my will and not God’s. I experienced dramatically that I don’t know what’s best for me, only God does. And usually my plans go against His (“My thoughts are not your thoughts…” Is 55:8). So my best bet for happiness and salvation is to be obedient to God’s will, and so in an incarnate way to be obedient to His Church, and also to be obedient to those who know and love me disinterestedly and might be there to guide me. Not to say I shouldn’t listen to the still, small voice inside me, but our faith is incarnate and there are very tangible means to help us. Really, obedience isn’t a limitation at all, it’s an incredible gift… and I guess it isn’t only for nuns after all!

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About the Author:

Julie Machado is a 30-year-old wife, mother and Portuguese-American who grew up in California, but moved to Portugal for college and has been there ever since. She has a degree in Theology from the Catholic University of Lisbon and has special interest in Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. She blogs at Marta, Julie e Maria.