Test of Obedience
Daniel was wiping off the table when Mom came into the kitchen. “Irene, I need to get some errands done and I’m taking the girls along,” she said, picking up her purse from the kitchen table. “The house needs cleaning up—especially that hall closet. Kyle’s down for his nap, so maybe you could do something with that bag of apples, too.”
Irene didn’t say anything, so Daniel just gave her a big grin as he tossed the dish rag in the sink. But as he slipped into the hall he heard Mom say, “And Daniel, I need you to help out this afternoon.”
Help out? He always helped out! Daniel frowned as he watched his younger sisters follow Mom out the door. The room was suddenly quiet and Daniel ducked into the shadow of the utility room. He would go see if Chad needed any help outside first.
“What’s up, Bud?” Chad asked, looking up from the board he was sanding. Daniel shut the shop door and didn’t answer. “Ah, you must be hiding from the girls. Is it Hide-and-Seek or Sardines today?”
“Neither. But can I help you with something?”
“Not really.” Chad rubbed the board with his hand. “I have about eight more planks to do, and then I’ll be finished. Don’t you have work to do inside?”
Daniel swirled his finger through the sawdust and Chad smiled. “So, you’re hiding from work then?”
“I just don’t want to clean the house,” Daniel said quickly.
“Too hard for you, huh?”
“No.” Daniel scowled. “It’s just—just boring and takes so long. I hate to clean! Besides it’s girl’s work.”
“Did Mom tell you to do it?” Chad asked.
Daniel frowned. “She said I should help out Irene.”
Chad picked out a new board and stood looking at it. “In boot camp soldiers are given lots of boring and hard things to test their obedience. Do you know what I’d do if I were you? Ask God to help me brace up and do a good job. Jesus is our General and He is training us to be obedient servants. It is by conquering the hard things that you get to be strong, you know.”
With a clap on the shoulder from Chad, Daniel trudged slowly back to the house. “Chad would do it,” Daniel told himself. “But can I? Do I have to clean up? I don’t feel like work.” Shirk work, shirk work, his shoes thudded up the steps.
Daniel stopped. “I don’t want to be a shirker!” he said to himself. “Dear Lord, help me go work even if I don’t feel like it.”
“That you, Daniel?” Irene called from the kitchen. “Can you do the dishes so I can get the apples peeled?”
“Sure.” Daniel walked slowly to the sink and looked at the tall stack of plates, cups, bowls and pans. He sighed. It looked worse than he had imagined.
“I rinsed them for you. They shouldn’t be that hard,” Irene said. She pulled out a bowl and began peeling apples, humming as she went. “I’ll be obedient, watch and see; I’ll be obedient, watch and see.”*
Daniel knew the words, but he didn’t feel like singing them. He would much rather be commanded to clear out a thicket of blackberries than wash dishes. If only he had been given the lawn to mow or wood to split! “I’ll be obedient, watch and see: Jesus’ll give me the victory!” Irene’s voice murmured on. Daniel picked up a plate and scrubbed in silence.
He was only halfway through when Irene dried her hands and opened a cookbook. “Should I make some applesauce or apple pie?” she said, flipping through the pages.
“Something for dessert,” Daniel said quickly.
Irene laughed. “How about apple dumplings?”
“Yum!” said Chad, coming in just then. “That sounds good! How can I help?”
“Daniel might need help with the dishes. He’s going in slow motion or something,” said Irene.
“What sort of conqueror are you?” Chad asked, peering over his shoulder. Daniel felt his ears turn pink. What had Chad said about boring work being a test? It seemed like the General had come in to check on him, and he was caught off guard.
“I’m almost done, if you want to rinse,” he said, quickly scrubbing a pot. And I will do my best, he said to himself. I must do my best and not fail the test. My best, my best, scrub, scrub!
“Mom wants the hall closet cleaned out,” said Irene, as Daniel handed the last dish to Chad. “It’s a big mess, but you boys could fix that.” She grinned at Daniel.
Daniel’s heart sank. You give us all the worst jobs, he thought as he pulled out the plug in the sink. The closet was a mess! A lot more work than the dishes. The door wouldn’t even shut. He opened his mouth to say so, when he remembered. This was his test! He heard his voice saying, “Sure, Chad and I can do it. We can conquer hard things.”
“Of course we can,” said Chad. He pulled open the closet door. “We’re tough enough for—” Just then a sleeping bag tumbled on his head and two puzzles slid to the floor. Chad’s old coat and a box of light bulbs nearly toppled after them.
“—for anything,” he finished, picking up the puzzles. “First things first. We’d better clear it out.”
Daniel couldn’t help grinning. “Before it clears us out!” he said with a laugh. As he pulled down the old coat, a green box caught his eye. “Hey, Chad, there’s the Wilderness Survival game! Maybe we can play it tonight.”
“Great idea! But,” Chad added with a wink, “we need to survive this job first.”