Greetings fellow traveler!
As most of you know, we have been in a “step out, not sure where we’re going“ mode since at least last spring. Even before we moved from Seattle, God had me thinking about this, talking with Him, and . . . taking pictures. Here is one I took while on a walk just north of Fort Casey on Whidbey Island: notice that the path is clear, a gate is open enough to walk through (but a car would need to wait), but the destination—where the path leads—is not visible. Maybe you feel like you are on a path like this, not at all certain where it will lead. I’m not speaking in an ultimate sense—I think most of you are part of God’s forever family; you know you will spend eternity with Jesus—but where you will live or work, maybe who you will marry, or how many (more) kids you will have (along with innumerable other details) are unknown to you. You might have a reply you give to some of these if asked, because you have learned that our culture definitely favors those who answer such questions with great certainty!
Don’t get me wrong, I think having “goals” and “making plans” are good, as long as we subject them to “if God wills . . ..” I don’t mean we say that as an excuse for not being reliable; I mean we should say it because we actually surrender our plans and goals to Him. I think surrender is the only authentic response if you really follow Jesus. As I was reading again this week in Eugene H. Peterson’s excellent book The Jesus Way I was reminded that, for many people (unfortunately even many within God’s family who live and think in the way of the world), following seems foolish. Think while you read:
“When we follow Jesus, it means that we don’t know exactly what it means, at least in detail. We follow him, letting him pick the roads, set the timetables, tell us what we need to know but only when we need to know it. Caiaphas knew exactly what he wanted and where he was going, and he had a pretty good idea of how to get there. He was a master at getting what he wanted in religion. . . ..
“When Jesus says ‘Follow me’ and we follow, we don’t know where we will go next or what we will do next. That is why we follow the one who does know.”
(The Jesus Way, p. 240)
Peterson’s words suggest that, in truth, nobody knows where they will go next or what they will do next. Many people think their plans are certain, but they are mistaken. Some tragic examples arose in central California this week, I’ll share only one: two families had their lives plunge into inexpressible pain when one mom, making a right turn out of the elementary school driveway after dropping her children for the day, struck and killed a twelve year old on a bike as he approached the same driveway from her right. . . . Papa, bring your tangible presence, including empathetic visits from some of our brothers and sisters, to comfort those who ache because of death. But I don’t know the details. It could be that the parents in one or both of these hurting families are Jesus followers—which brings me to another point from Peterson:
“. . .Following Jesus is not a path to privilege. It is not a way to get what you want. It is not the inside track to a higher standard of living. In both Judaism and the church there have always been a lot of people who expect everything to turn out wonderfully when they commit themselves to God’s ways, worship faithfully, study their Bibles, witness to their friends, and give generously. But it is following Caiaphas that gets you that kind of life, not following Jesus. Jesus makes that explicit when he says, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross . . .’ (Matt. 16:24).”
(The Jesus Way, p. 229).
If you are struggling in the Way today, if life seems confusing or hard (or both), do not despair. It is possible to follow yet not have all the answers. Remember, even though “we don’t know where we will go next or what we will do next, . . . we follow the one who does know.”
Lord Jesus, please allow us to see and hear You in ways which Your Spirit will use to enable us to be good followers.