Jesus invites us to follow him and we respond. Here’s a look at one type of response.
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’
This guy is so enthusiastic about following Jesus. He’s ready to give follower-ship all he’s got. He’s eager, quick and ready to make a promise and a commitment. Jesus, though, requires a realistic assessment of self and of one’s words. The young, the naive, the quick or emotional words of commitment and promise need to be awakened to what will be required in this relationship. It will not be easy, enthusiasm will not soften the rock you will have as your pillow. Jesus wants us to be open-eyed about the cost of this discipleship.
How many hearts are broken because an emotional promise was made that could not be kept once the fire of attraction died down?
Working as a youth ministries intern at my church is how I supported myself in college. My slightly older co-worker Mark and his wife Charlotte took a liking to me and invited me into their circle of affection. They were cool and they chose me. I felt pretty cool.
One day they announced to me, rather casually I thought, that they had decided to love me unconditionally and then began to pour words of affirmation upon me. After this announcement, they would seek me out, their only objective was to tell me they loved me.
This should make me happy, right? But it didn’t, instead It freaked me out. I felt smothered by their attention and began to withdraw. Where I used to be warm and receptive, I was now cool and elusive. I wasn’t purposefully pouring water on the flame of their love, I was just wounded and not able to handle such loving demonstrations.
Not surprisingly, their love cooled. In retrospect, I give them a huge break, they were probably 24 years old, very good intended and very human. But when they let my reactions to their movements toward me modify the way they acted toward me, I became more convinced of the false truth I feared; I was not worthy of love. Their eager but faltering attempt to love as Christ loved, solidified my self-hatred.
What if they would have just loved me?
I certainly am not without fault. After months of praying for the faltering marriage of a friend, I remembered Jesus’ explanation to his disciples that sometimes a situation needed more just just prayer, it needed prayer combined with fasting to be effective. So I earnestly promised my friend I would fast and pray for the healing of his marriage. Well, I didn’t. As Jesus said, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Their marriage ended. And I felt slightly responsible about its demise.
Peter was one of those quick to declare guys. After the last supper, he promised he would follow Jesus wherever Jesus went, even lay down his life for him. Jesus knew him so well, Jesus knew Peter wouldn’t keep his promise. Jesus told him the truth about his fickle nature (Peter would deny Jesus three times before breakfast); and yet loved him to the end and beyond.
We need to own our desire and our lack; let our hearts be moved with zeal to follow Jesus and yet be acquainted with our inability to do it well. Jesus will not be surprised by our shortcomings. He prays for us and welcomes our attempts. When we fail, we fall, and with each failure, let us fall into the arms of God’s grace and begin again, wiser and more humbly.
Let the hot flame of love burn low, so its embers can sustain the heat necessary for warmth and provision.
Next time another possible response to Jesus’ invitation to follow him. See you then!