I looked up the word stubborn in the dictionary this week and found my picture next to the definition. In Hosea 11, God accuses his people of being wayward. He calls, and like undisciplined teens, they ramble farther away. They stubbornly cling to idols and consult false teachers who tell them only what they want to hear. We too can be stubborn when we double-down on a wrong choice, fail to ask directions when we are lost, and drive the people around us crazy by claiming to be right, even after we have been proven wrong. This trait is the one we are most likely to inherit from our parents, and the one we will make damn sure to pass on to our kids. We hate this persistent obstinance in others, but think it is an indispensable feature of our own character. God hates it equally in everybody.
There is only one cure for stubbornness. It is painful medicine. We must let go. Often a stubborn person will put something down, once they have been shown that they are wrong, only to pick it up again. If we want to cease being stubborn, we must learn to put things down and leave them be, even if we haven’t been proved wrong. I like the phrase, “Do you want to be happy, or do you want to be right?” Only those who let go are happy in this world, and blessed in the one beyond. We hold on to our stubbornness at great peril.
Notice how lovingly God tries to woo his people away from their stubbornness:
The more I called them, the more they went from me… I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them…
…because of their schemes. My people are bent on turning away from me. (Hosea 11:2-7)
Yet when you read it in the context of the rest of Hosea, or even in the rest of the Bible, you realize that God has no interest in allowing his people to remain stubborn. I don’t know if Hell has been designed as a terrible place because God plans to put all the stubborn people there, or if we will find hell to be awful because everyone there will be as stubborn as we are.
Let it go. What do we need to let go of? Let me mention something you may not be thinking of. Many of us are stubborn about money. We will examine a receipt to make sure the waitress didn’t cheat us on our meal. If we let it go, our digestion would be better. There are those who have disrupted their family and ruined their relationship with their sibling over an inheritance. Do you want to be a few dollars richer, or do you want to be happy and keep your good memories of the deceased? Jesus encounters this situation in Luke 12:13-21. Jesus responds with a story about a farmer who tells his soul to be happy in the knowledge that he has done the prudent thing in building bigger barns for his surplus crops rather than giving it away to the poor. That night the farmer’s soul was not happy. That night the farmer died and went to be judged by the Lord-God who will judge all the world’s stubborn people. Even those who think they are right.