Robert knows obedience to God encompasses all of life; inside and out. Obedience is more profound than merely refraining from external sins such as lying, committing adultery or violent behaviour, though it certainly includes those. Obedience also involves submitting our values, emotions, and hearts to Christ’s lordship. God asks for no less than total commitment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matt. 22:37–38). There is nothing more important, and nothing more demanding.
In fact, it requires our lives, which in turn saves our lives (Mark 8:35). This external and internal nature of obedience helped Robert grow up spiritually. It helped him integrate various parts of his character that were either in conflict with another or alienated. Initially, Robert shared, he used to avoid intimacy because he found it difficult to trust people. This avoidance caused problems in his marriage, work, and friendships. Part of him wanted to be vulnerable, but he was afraid of being hurt or controlled. The other part wanted to be distant and safe, but he got lonely. Robert’s entire life oscillated between these two poles, disrupting his life and hurting people around him.
However, because of Robert’s involvement with good people, he became aware of these two conflicted parts of his heart. Knowing about the two types of obedience helped him heal. Earlier, when he grew emotionally close to someone, he would quickly distance himself by getting busy at work or turning to media. This was a safe escape from feeling his needs. But unlike earlier, he now called his friend when he felt the need to isolate. He committed to an external behaviour: staying in contact with people (Heb. 10:25). This commitment kept Robert from withdrawing and thus avoiding the tension of his feelings. Today, Robert has learnt to be vulnerable and yet free in his relationships. We too have the option to love God and his creation.