The following is not something that I would normally post. When I have intimate and personal experiences with God, I tend to keep them close. But this was a powerful moment and I wanted to put it out there.
This morning, as I was reflecting on the person of Jesus, a very powerful image came to mind. I was standing on a high place like the top of a hill. Jesus was in front of me, silhouetted by a magnificent vista. The land behind him was beautiful and glorious, beyond what any words could adequately describe. I knew this land was his Father’s kingdom.
I could sense Jesus inviting me, “Come and follow me.” He was inviting me to join him on a new journey to explore this grand vista. I knew that if I didn’t accept, he would go on that journey without me. If he started without me he would disappear over the hill and vanish from my sight. And the thought of that brought intense sorrow. Yet as I thought about following him, I was aware of my condition as a middle-aged man, overweight and out of shape. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with him. I had followed him to this place on the hill and had become content and complacent where I was.
But being with him was the only thing I wanted. So I shouldered my backpack, said, “Wait up. I’m coming,” and struggled to join him. I was filled with a mixture of devotion and fear. I knew where I had been standing was not where I was supposed to remain. It was only a temporary point in the journey. But it was comfortable and safe. I was frightened of the pain I would experience and the prospect of losing everything I had gained. But I knew I would rather lose everything I currently have than lose Jesus. So I chose to follow even though I felt I wouldn’t be able to keep up.
As I rushed to join Jesus, my knees and joints ached and I was winded by the short distance to catch up to him. I was so out of shape. This increased my fear and anxiety that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with him. But I knew I had to follow him. I couldn’t let him go over the crest of the hill without me or I would lose him. No matter how much it hurt, I wanted more than anything to journey with Jesus and explore his Father’s kingdom with him.
I remember sensing a similar call when I was 18 or 19 years old. It was the most exciting prospect and filled my life with the deepest sense of purpose. I was ready to go anywhere and do anything with him. I was ready to take risks and make sacrifices. I had absolutely nothing to lose.
For many years, I feel I have drifted from that purpose. I have followed Jesus to the top of this hill and have become encamped there. But now he’s calling me to follow him further, to start a new leg of the journey. While the idea of following Jesus into a new and risky journey is exciting, it also fills me with fear. At this point in my life, I feel I have so much to lose. I fear it will somehow jeopardize my future, my retirement, and the “golden years” of my life. I find myself praying for God to protect or increase what I have obtained. I’m scared of losing it.
But I know I was never supposed to worry about my future. Things like owning a home and saving for retirement, while fine, were never supposed to be my primary concern. And I know that you cannot follow Christ and cling to what you have.
I knew that to accept Jesus’ invitation and challenge, I would need to undergo significant change in order to keep up. I have no idea what Jesus is calling me to. All I know is that he’s challenging me to explore God’s kingdom with him. And as I pray about what this means, Colossians 1:10-12 keeps coming to mind:
“That you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.”
That is what I want the rest of my life to be about.
Jesus’ call to “Come and follow me” doesn’t only occur at the beginning of our journey with him. I think we hear it again and again as we begin new phases of our life with him. In those moments, we have a choice either to stay where we are, content with what the journey has produced in us or to answer the call again. We begin something new again, accepting new risks and challenges.
Answering the call is always risky. Each time it requires us to leave everything behind, even everything we have gained by following him. This is true whether we are young or old or in-between. Each time we are confronted with the question, “Is following Jesus worth everything?” Is he worth even losing everything we have gained thus far by following him?
Remember the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price?
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
In both parables, everything had to be sold to gain the most valuable item. The willingness to give up everything to gain the best is essential at the beginning of the journey with Jesus as well as throughout all the phases of the journey. It goes without saying that Jesus is the treasure and the pearl. So when faced with his call to “Come and follow me” we have to ask, is Jesus worth losing everything again?