Agency and Obedience
How do agency and obedience go together? Obedience to God brings greater use of agency, right? More choices, rather than fewer, open up. However, obedience to man limits our choices, as in addiction, which ultimately brings loss of agency.
When we are children we are taught to obey our parents, teachers, and all others who have authority over us, including God. But as children we cannot differentiate between good and evil “masters.” So it becomes confusing when these masters place conflicting demands on us, especially if they contradict God himself because the child has not yet learned to recognize the voice of this Master.
So how does a child learn to obey God if he has grown up perfectly obedient to man, learning the incorrect teachings of men rather than of God? Would there necessarily need to be some sort of huge rebellion within that person as an adult to break free from the philosophies of men which have held him bound all those years? How else could he come to terms with who he is really, who God is, and what His voice sounds like?
For example, if a child grows up being molested by a close family member who has jurisdiction over her, then she grows up with conflicting views of the world. Being a good child, she wants to obey, but obedience in this kind of circumstance only brings pain and confusion. But she obeys anyway. As she learns that she can still obey even in such impossible circimstances, she learns that she can obey in any circumstance. So she obeys everyone and everything that is placed before her, believing that disobedience brings more pain than obedience. She obeys every voice but her own and ultimately God’s. For she doesn’t realize that God is within her. She grows to distrust her own feelings, including and especially those feelings that would come as personal revelation.
What is a person in this situation supposed to do? She becomes so tightly wound by turning every which way but up that there seems to be no way out. In this case, the only way out is up. But how can she learn how to trust her own feelings, her own personal revelation, and the voice of God within her?
As an adult it would seem that strict obedience throughout her life actually stripped her of her agency, her choices becoming more and more limited. She was forced to give up her childhood, forced to see the world through a narrow point of view, that there is only one “right” way of doing things.
So what exactly does it mean that obedience is the first law of heaven? And that it brings greater use of our agency? How can we learn obedience as children when our parents are imperfect at best and abusive at worst? This is my question.