Exactly one year ago today I was confronted with a challenge that was so unexpected, so clear, and so vivid that it exploded my apathy, changed the entire direction of my life and profoundly, deeply, and permanently changed me at the very core of my being. In time I may forget some things, or be uncertain of others, but when time is swallowed up by eternity I will still be absolutely certain that on Saturday, May 5, 2012, I heard the voice of God say, “Come! Follow Me.”
This was not just a generic call to faith and obedience, it was specific; stop what you are doing, and come go with Me…somewhere. There was something familiar about the summons:
“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers; Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew… ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John… Jesus called them and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him.” Matthew 4:18-22
“As He walked along, He saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow Me,’ Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed Him.” Mark 2:14
Seriously?! Just like that! He said “Come”, and they left their jobs, abandoned their plans, and walked away from the familiar and certain towards the glorious uncertainty of divine adventure.
I cannot even pretend to be an adventurous person, yet here I stand looking back over the most exhilarating, and most terrifying year of my life, with no end to this thrill ride in sight. Gone are the days of routine relationship, predictable purpose and little or no expectation of the unexpected or exceptional activity of God in my life. Daily I am in awe at every discovery of truth about God, about other people, and about my own giftedly imperfect self; amazed at the circumstances and experiences that are slowly unveiling His direction and purpose for my life.
I wish the Biblical narrative gave more detail, or that these first followers kept a journal of those early days, weeks and months. How did their family and friends react; with support or barely concealed ill will that questioned their motives or even their sanity? And I would love to know if there were days when they doubted what they had heard, or second-guessed their decision. Did their emotions soar with the miracles, the demonstrations of supernatural power, and the popularity of Jesus, only to plunge them into a raging sea of fear and doubt when challenged by persecution, testing and trials?
Over the past twelve months I have been so appalled at how fickle my emotions can be that for the rest of my life they are welcome to be present for everything but will be in charge of nothing! My emotions simply cannot be trusted to follow where Jesus leads for they are perpetually drawn towards comfort and ease, and have an insatiable need for attention and affirmation. I refused to be deterred or detained by their experience of sorrow or joy, but I will protect them as best as I can from those impressions, comments and opinions which do not serve the will or purpose of God in my life right now, and so cannot have my best interest at heart.
I wonder what impressions the first twelve had of their companions when they gathered for the first time in one place and got the opportunity to take stock of this motley crew Jesus had put together to change the world? Were there cliques and competition already forming; blue collar workers versus political zealots versus wealthy opportunists? Surely there must have been considerable surprise at some of His choices.
Just as surprising are the companions He has chosen to walk this road with me, who received no formal invitation except a deep conviction from the Holy Spirit, and have absolutely nothing to gain from my journey. They willingly and selflessly walk with me, with no agenda except to serve the will and purpose of God; always speaking truth liberally seasoned with love and grace. You are my immeasurable wealth, vast riches and eternal treasure; an inheritance bestowed on me by God Himself for time and eternity.
Of the first twelve who responded to Jesus’ call to come follow Him, one committed suicide, consumed by his greed and ambition and of the remaining eleven only one is known to have died in his bed of old age. Was it worth it? Peter thought so:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade… In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” I Peter 1:3-9
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us… We write this to make our joy complete. This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.” I John 1:1-5
So, here’s the thing, on this first anniversary of that most fateful day, where am I on this journey; at the beginning, somewhere in the middle, or am I nearing the end? I have absolutely no idea. Every raw fear, every nagging doubt and every crippling insecurity have been laid bare to the glaring light of God’s truth, often leaving me feeling exposed and vulnerable, “But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head.” (Psalm 3:3). His love has finally broken through the prison walls that fear built, so that even in the face of uncertainty about my circumstances, or where the journey will take me next…
“…I KNOW in whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” II Timothy 1:12
“Being CONFIDENT of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in (me) will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;” Philippians 1:6
Yes, I know in whom I have believed, and remain confident in His power and in His purposeful plan,… just living the thing.