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Filtering by Tag: Virtue-Obedience


alec vanderboom

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." John 14:15

From Daily Homily of Father John:

"Obedience is proof of love. And love motivates obedience. Jesus tells us that if we love him, we will keep all of his commandments. Anyone who tells you that they love Jesus, but don't follow his commandments, is a liar. That's a pretty strong word, "liar." Yet that is what Jesus tells us plainly."

As further proof that the Eucharist is "real", the girl who practically wrote her history thesis on civil disobedience and made a living off of being argumentative, is now facinated by the virtue of obedience. I can't get this obedience quest out of my head.

Today, while listening to this homily, I thought of how furious it makes me when my kids willfully disobey me. Sometimes, it's frustrating because they put themselves in clear danger, such as running out into the street without holding an adult's hand. Othertimes, I thought disobedience was simply annoying, such as when the 5 year old needs three promptings, instead of just one, to set the table. I never thought of equating disobedience with a lack of love. Yet, isn't that a small part of my frustration? If you loved me, you'd do what I tell you. The first time. With a cheerful heart.

Applying the same standard to myself, I can see where my deep love for my husband should motivate me to obey him. If I find it so difficult to "obey" a flesh and blood guy who makes "reasonable" requests, how can I claim to easily obey a more abstract Father in Heaven who asks "unreasonable" things, like keep my temper each day after five years of nights with little to no patches of uninterupted sleep? If I don't yet have a great understanding of Jesus, isn't due to my own failure to follow his commandments? Jesus has promised to reveal himself perfectly to those that perfectly follow his Father's commandments. Since I'm way off on the "meek shall inherit the earth" request, how can I "demand" to have a better understanding of the mystery of the Eucharist?

Just some thoughts on my mind after Daily Mass and a wonderful visit with our Holy Father. There are many mysteries left in Catholicism for me. Todays tasks are more clear. Get started down the obedience path. Give thanks for my husband and children who are my "cliff notes" on the faith. Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life. Once I start to follow him in earnest, all the surrounding vagueness about the Resurrection will clear up for me.

The Virtue of Obedience- Or the Post I Never Planned to Write

alec vanderboom

I used to listen to hour after hour of Christian radio programs while driving through the long, flat state of Indiana. My trip home from Madison, Wisconsin to Buckhannon, West Virginia ran ten hours. Except for the one time I listened to eight hours of Suze Ormon tapes, my mind was usually too frazzled from law school exams to remember to pack cassette tapes for the trip. The radio was a fun medley of new finds and old favorites until I left Chicago. From Southern Illinois to Ohio, there was nothing but talk Christian radio stations.

Somewhere in deep Indiana, during three years of cross-country trips from 1997-2000, is when I first heard this notion of “wives being obedient to their husbands”, and “fathers being head of their families”. I don’t mind telling you, that about five minutes into any discussion of this topic, I turn off my radio in disgust at such old-fashion drivel.

Like all virtues in my faith journey so far, my children have taught me the importance of “obedience.” I have hit the age where my eldest can now, we Southerners say, “sass her Mother.” It broke my heart the first time. By age four, I had gone from being hurt and shocked, to wondering out-loud to my husband “How can I get some positive reinforcement on this subject fast because the repeated time-outs in the naughty chair are just not cutting it!”

It was at that moment that I realized, “When did my daughter ever see me being obedient?” There were lots of things, such as table manners, that my husband and I were able to model for her. When we wanted the kids to sit still in their chairs or to chew with their mouth closed, we’d make an elaborate “thank you Daddy for sitting so still in your chair tonight” production during dinner. That system worked well for us. But how would I “teach” the virtue of obedience.

At first, my method was obvious and forced. Jon would ask me to pass the peas at dinner. I’d make a big, showy production “Look, I’m passing the peas to Daddy because I’m being OBEDIENT. I’m not saying, “I don’t want to!” or “Not now, maybe later.” I’m passing the peas, quickly and cheerfully because I liked to do what I’m asked.”

Then I started to slip “obedience” into our nightly rosary intensions. Each night since the beginning of Advent, I’ve prayed for the same things for my children. I pray for Hannah to become more obedient, Alex to finish potty training and Maria to stop her teething pain and start sleeping again. The virtue of obedience seemed to fit neatly into my own quest for increased meekness and humility. I didn’t know what I was praying for exactly, or who I wanted to become more obedient “too.” It was more a vague feeling that sort of stayed vague and undefined for a few weeks.

My first act of conscious obedience to my husband occurred over this hallway chair. As you can tell from this interior shot of my apartment’s front door, I don’t have much room. The hallway is less than three feet wide. There’s no entryway, screen porch or mudroom. Only a few feet of linoleum to handle two young kids, a baby, and a jumpy, nervous dog.

When my husband first moved a chair in the middle of the hallway, I disliked it. I thought it made the place look “cluttered.” I tripped over it. The kids kept dropping toys under it. It was hard to vacuum around it. For a few days, I moved the chair back to the living room each morning. Every night, my husband moved it back.

One day, I thought, “I guess I can leave the chair there. I’m trying to learn how to be obedient.” So that was my little silent gift to my husband. I chair, in a position I heartily disliked.

Nothing happened for a few more days. Then I noticed that it made a convenient place to sit a child down to put on his snow boots. It was a place to put the dog leash in between dog walks. I could place the baby carrier on it while sorting the mail. This chair, that totally violated my inner homemaker, was full of useful purposes.

About five days into “the chair as a gift” experiment, my husband started loudly praising me. “Thank you so much for letting me keep a chair here. It really helps me to have a comfortable place to change my shoes in the morning.” The praise, repeated night after night left me feeling a little sheepish. It was just one chair after all.

His repeated praised got me thinking. What say does my husband have at home? Sure we picked out the IKEA furniture together. Once we hung up the pictures together and found a place for the couch, I have made all future “home” decisions. For example, I handle all the grocery shopping. As a result, we eat peas for dinner most nights instead of corn. We use Colgate instead of Crest. We drink Coke instead of Pepsi. Multiply control of a dozen daily decisions over hundreds of days. Over time, my husband could easily feel that his home was as impersonal to him as hotel room.

Recognizing how powerful my role as a full time “home-maker” had become made it easier to cheerfully acquiesce to my husband few stated preferences.

Then came the kid rules. In the past, my husband has made bold pronouncements such as “no toys in Mom and Dad’s room.” I’ve usually argued against such sweeping changes with the rationalization that these rules will be impossible to enforce with a 4 & 3 year old. Since the burden of “enforcement” falls upon me, I should get to set the rules. This time, I let the “no toys in the parent’s bedroom” stand unchallenged.

The next morning, Alex and Hannah both tugged armfuls of toys into our room while I nursed the baby. “Remember Dad’s rule, no toys in here,” I said reluctantly. “But I want to,” went the familiar refrain. I sighed. This was going result in tears and multiple trips to the time out chair. “Remember what Dad said?”

Suddenly, I experienced the power that usually resides with used car salesmen who refer to fictitious managers. “Oh, okay.” The kids left the room trailing their toys wordlessly behind them. What happened? Because I wasn’t the one setting the rules, they couldn’t argue with me. Everyone in the house knew that Dad was fanatic about kicking the toys out of his room. I wasn’t the one deciding what would be and wouldn’t be permissible. I was simply the cop enforcing the rulebook.

It’s only been two months, but I can’t tell you how many arguments this has saved me. I don’t have to decide what the rules should be on the spot and under fire. Once I’ve figured out that the no toy rule can be enforced and makes life so much better, I’m more willing to take my husband’s other parenting advice. Alex should learn how to cut his own food and not rely always on Mom to do it. My soft-heart, and even more honestly, inability to stand loud crying, has stopped by from pushing my middle-child into ever increasing levels of independence.

I don’t live under Jon’s dictatorship. If one of his proposed family rules don’t work out, I’ll bring it to my husband’s attention. My level of input hasn’t change in regard to my home or my kids. Instead, my attitude have changed. When Jon makes a suggestion that I disagree with, I don’t instantly say “that isn’t going to work” and launch into Smith Debate President mode. Instead, I take a “wait and see” approach. If problems arise after trying a new project Jon’s way for five days or more, I’ll tell Jon about them in private. Together we brainstorm solutions. So far, the Mom as ‘loyal first-mate approach” has worked well.

By mid-January, I thought that was “all she wrote” on the subject. I figured out an easier way to make joint-decisions about the household and the raising of our kids. Then my husband made a thrilling announcement last week. Jon is currently working his way to a 3rd Degree in the Knights of Columbus. My husband is traditionally “not a joiner”. The skill that he used to avoid even the basic, mandatory promotions during ten years of Army Reserve Duty is legendary among his unit. So it was with complete surprise that I heard my husband say “I’m want to take this thing seriously and move up high in the ranks. The Knights need a leader who will take seriously his Catholic faith and complete the rituals with honor and respect.”

“Where did this change come from?” I asked bewildered, but pleased. “It came from you, I guess. You made room for me at the top of our household. I’m not naturally a leader, but having you defer to my decisions and respect my opinion has made me more confident, more clear-headed.”

Wow! Where this obedience trail is going, gentle readers, I have no idea. I’m just reporting the facts at this point. (I just told my headstrong daughter this morning that if she wants to become a nun, she’ll have to practice obedience to her Mother Superior. What better way to master that tricky virtue than to start now by cheerfully putting on her knee socks when asked by her actual Mother rather than whine “But it’s not snowing today!” By Jolly, did she now put on her knee socks in a flash.)

Do you have any thoughts on the obedience issue? Do you see any connection between how children mind their parents and how a wife cheerfully, and respectfully obeys her husband’s requests?


alec vanderboom

The blessings from the recently departed house guests still continue. I arrived at my mother-in-laws house determined to be a good guest. This means picking up all the spare articles of clothing deposited by my large family, and instantly brushing the baby spit-up from her new carpets with a damp rag.

Today during my quest, I also figured out how to better practice a basic doctrine of faith. During the trip to his parents, I'm aiming to be an especially conscious "good servant" to my husband during this trip. While he is talking to his parents, I made up his plate of dinner and got him something to drink. I do all the diaper changes for the baby. I unpacked the suitcases and made sure all the kids have all the right Fall weather gear. I don't ask for any of my husband's help with these details because "I'm the servant" this week.

Servants are also agreeably obedient. When my mother-in-law asked me if the baby has a hat to cover her ears, I brought down four hats to try on her. I didn't argue that it was 78 degree outside or that her sweatshirt came with a hood. Then I brought down socks for the baby also, unasked.

As a result of this focus, the visit is going more smoothly than in the past. My husband is having alot of uninterrupted time to chat with his aging parents. I'm also having alot less angst about the clash between family cultures- because it's less debate over "what is the right way to do things" and more "when in Rome do as the Romans." I've been having nice thoughts about the characters in Jane Austen's novels as I go about similar situations.

I've focused a lot on doing "service" for my family. Never before, have I been so focused on purely being a servant. That is what we are aiming for in our entire lives as Catholics. Being servants of God. I'm grateful motherhood is giving me such good practice for heaven.

Obedience Struggles

alec vanderboom

I'm blessed to be a part of a Mother's Rosary Group in a suburb of Washington D. C. The kids and I started going when I lived with my grandfather. Despite moving 45 minutes away nearly two years ago, we still get to our Tuesday meetings regularly.

Father Jaffe shows our group incredible kindness. He gives us a private Mass on the first Tuesday of the month and hears our confession on the last Tuesday. (The rest of the time is informal where we moms chat & pray the rosary together and let the kids play together.) Lex has really benefited from being able to watch older boys sit quietly during Mass. I've loved having a regular confessor in Father Jaffe.

Last Tuesday, Father gave us a Question and Answer Session.

Here's my question:

"Can [Father] define the virtue of obedience for us? And give us a working definition of the goal we are trying to reach with our children in that area? Maybe give us some concrete examples of why that trait is so critical in a priest or an adult lay Catholic? It's been a long year of telling my two year old "No, don't hit your sister with your fork," & "You need to pick up your Legos the first time I ask you and not the third!" I get tired of picking up a squirmy kid and putting him in the time out chair over and over again. I could use some encouragement in this area!"

Father Jaffe, who is such a merry priest, answered with good humor. First, he explained that the etymology of obedience comes from the latin word "audire" or "right hearing." All this work of the "naughty chair" is training my son to "hear rightly" or recognize the voice of truth. This constant repetition, which drives me so crazy, is actually an important stage of development. Because I'm the one who is enforcing the rules, my son is learning to trust me (and his father) as a source of truth. Father further explained that this trust is pretty revolutionary. My son is well below the age of reason (for most kids this is around age 7). All he has in the way of guidance of his behavior is his ability to trust me. He doesn't have the ability to abstractly reason out his behavior. So his emotional ability to "trust" his mom is all that is standing in the way of total chaos right now.

I was encouraged by Father saying that even though he doesn't raise kids, he can still see pretty clearly this "flip" that happens when kids reach the age of reason. All the sudden they know when they did something wrong and are sorry for their sins. I've got to really remind myself that Lex is not "sinning" when he disobeys me. I tend to get hysterical sometimes, especially when it involves safety around Maria. (Thank goodness that girl is growing bigger and more resilient by the hour!)

I also appreciated Father explaining that our authority as parents stems from God. As a result, we can't "order" our child to do something that doesn't conform to the "truth" or God's law. That's where Sophie Scholl like civil disobedience comes in. It's also reassuring, because I'm pretty rebellious in my own family. It seems strange to say because I don't sport any nose piercings or dyed hair, but in terms of the Rupp family rules-- succeed in the world to reflect well on the family, have kids carefully spaced out five years apart, etc. They sound silly, but my parents are serious about them. My Dad didn't talk to me for six months after I told him that Lex was going to be born 18 months after Hannah. (Dad was convinced I just ruined Hannah's life by not using birth control). So its been an intense journey wrestling with the "honor thy father and mother" bit because after becoming Catholic so many of my actions are in opposition to their will & advice. What does obedience mean when a Protestant father demands his adult Catholic daughter do things contrary to her faith? And how can I expect Hannah to follow me if I'm not following my parent's will?

This "right hearing" thing makes more sense to me. I'm helping Hannah hear and happily follow God's rules. Sometimes, as Father explained, I can add some of my own rules for ease of family life (such as, we take off our shoes at the front door). But I can't order Hannah to do something contrary to the rules of faith. If every day, I try to confirm more closely to the truths of my faith- and admit when I fall short of the mark, then my parental authority is under God's authority.

Anyway, it's a tough thing, this wrestling with obedience question. I much preferred the clear lines of "don't hit other kids" and "don't run into the street" Those rules were about the child's safety and proper socialization. Now I've got all these other rules, some because I've got three kids age 4 and under now, and it's feels like I'm a police woman most days. Thanks to father, I'm aiming to be a more cheerful police woman who gives many breaks to the under seven set.

Do you struggle with any of these issue at your house?