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Lara Patangan contemplates the difference between obedience to God and people-pleasing.

In the middle of praying, I noticed that my rosary broke. I wasn’t doing anything that would cause this to happen and I felt unsettled seeing the broken beads which are privy to so many of my sacred prayers. Even more disturbing was realizing that the fruit of the mystery for the decade I was praying was obedience.

Was God trying to tell me something? Am I so disobedient that my rosary spontaneously separated? Was a swarm of locusts – or worse, palmetto bugs, about to descend on me?!

When I told my husband what happened, his response was, “Well, you don’t like to be told what to do.” I wanted to point out how brave he was for sharing his insight but then I decided he was giving me a compliment. (That’s what I sometimes do when I am annoyed by something someone said: I decide it must somehow be a compliment.) I mean, who likes to be told what to do?

For many years, I confused obedience with people-pleasing. I don’t know if I seem particularly inept but people often seem to have a need to tell me what to do or how I should do something. Because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone, I tried to comply. Of course, this never ended well. I became resentful or pulled away from anyone who I considered overbearing. This wasn’t good for me or the well-meaning bossy britches in my life so I had to quit people-pleasing and just let those who want me to make different choices think what they want. Everyone does anyway.


white butterfly in open hand


However fraught our human relationships may be, it’s different with God. Obedience to Him isn’t something that should make us bristle. He trusts us enough to give us free will. He isn’t going to force anything on us because He knows love doesn’t force. It doesn’t control and it doesn’t dictate.

When you think how much God loves you and wants only good for you, being obedient doesn’t feel restraining. It’s what really allows us to live in freedom. I know having rules doesn’t sound as much fun as not having any, but God’s commandments protect us from the bondage of sin which is heavy and hard and full of hurt that often spreads to the people we love. There is nothing freeing about that.


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I seek to obey God not because I am scared of broken rosaries or swarms of locusts but because I love. #catholicmom


There are many reasons to obey God: it’s a form of worship, demonstration of faith, keeps us from sin, and allows us the experience the blessings of holy living. But of all the reasons, love is what keeps my sometimes rebellious heart in line.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” (John 14:15).

At the core of my being, I love God. That love doesn’t make me think of obedience or rules or righteousness. It just makes me not want to hurt someone who l love.

My husband is right, I don’t like to be told what to do. I don’t ever want to go back to being a slave to people-pleasing. I seek to obey God not because I am scared of broken rosaries or swarms of locusts but because I love. And there is nothing more freeing than that.


Rosary on top of open BIble

Copyright 2021 Lara Patangan
Images: Canva Pro