20 May, 2017

Follow Me

The slow-down of summer is before us.  In my youth, I can well remember languid summer days.  I would wake up after my parents had left for work and eagerly anticipate a day of friends, food and pool time.  Unfortunately, there were days that a 'to do' list was awaiting me and that was not to my liking.  Wash, vacuum, dust, help with dinner, practice the piano, etc.  Ugh, I wanted a totally free existence; one where I could follow my every whim.  I guess I'm saying I wanted to follow me.   Yes, certainly, that is it.  I wanted to follow my whims, my ideas and my desires.  I, in no way, wanted to follow my mom and her instructions for those summer months.

Here I find myself entering another series of summer months many years later.  There is a part of me that looks to long, lazy summer days in which I follow only my whims.  But a stronger part of me has decided to create a different summer.  I've decided to intentionally write this summer.  Every two weeks, I will write based on the book of Matthew.  Not just when I feel a whim but an intentional effort to follow the Me mentioned in Matthew 4.  Will you intentionally walk with me this summer?

     "As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 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. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. " Matthew 4:18-22
I want to ponder of few of the phrases in this story of early Christ-followers.  I'm perplexed and amazed and I'm fairly certain that I would have not followed Jesus that day. 

•Fishing - It was their regular work. 
•Jesus said to them, Follow me.  I'll make a new kind of fisherman out of you.  I'll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.
•They didn't ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.
•They were quick to follow..."immediately"
•Abandoning boat and father

It was a regular work day; these guys were doing their everyday tasks as Jesus, previously unknown to them, walks up and puts a call on their lives.  Follow Me.  Henri Nouwen* offers this insight, "One of his [Jesus] first steps is to call disciples to follow him and share in his ministry.  Then Jesus goes up onto the mountain, gathers his disciples around him, and says: "How blessed are the poor, the gentle, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for uprightness, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness."  These words present a portrait of the child of God.  It is a self-portrait of Jesus, the Beloved Son.  It is also a portrait of me as I must be."

I've always wondered what it REALLY means to follow Him.  Of course, there are simple and obvious answers that speak to our salvation.  But to those fisherman that day surely, they wondered 'follow you, where?'.  After asking no questions and leaving all they had ever known...surely.

Is this story from Matthew really any different from our lives? Those of us who have previously encountered Jesus have had this very opportunity.  But....I seem to be stuck in my workplace, i.e. still fishing for perch and bass or tending a net when the call has been long since uttered and His call is so much greater.  And as Nouwen speculates maybe Follow Me means so much more than I've dared considered.  
Follow Me and let me teach you how to be poor
Follow Me and let me teach your harsh, unloving heart to be gentle
Follow Me and let me teach you how to hunger and thirst for uprightness
Follow Me and let me teach you mercy
Follow Me and let me help you grow into a pure heart
Follow Me and let me transform you into a peacemaker

What would it mean in my life to walk away from the work I know, the everyday life I live and Follow Him?  Would others receive more of His love?  Would others come to know Him?  How would my life be different?  What if I follow and allow Him to change me into a poor, gentle person? A person hungering and thirsting for uprightness, a person of mercy and a pure heart, a peacemaker....what if?  What if following Him in this deep, life changing way leads to greater fulfillment, greater purpose, greater Joy?

And for those of you reading who have never chosen to Follow this Jesus...think about His offer.  It's so simple yet so brilliant and complete.  Follow Me and I will fulfill all that you've been searching for, all the questions you've asked, all the emptiness that never gets filled.  Leave your nets...Follow.

*The Return of the Prodigal Son, p. 54

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