Monday, February 4, 2013

Setting Out To Follow

You can say you’re going to do something.  You can put everything into motion, and tell everyone you know.  You can burn the plows, as Elisha did.  (See Called)  But then comes the day that you must set out to follow… or not.  What if your plow-burning is a huge success – you, at your best?  What if you burn the plows and then start to wonder why?  What if you burn the plows and start to feel like maybe plowing was the way to go?

Since August, I have known my days at my law firm were numbered.  It was in August that God called me very clearly to leave and to go into full-time ministry.  He did not disclose to me where I was to go, but only that I was to leave.  My last thing to do at my firm was to try the case I just returned home from trying.  The trial was the highlight of my nearly 13-year career, not only because we won, but because I learned so much about myself as a follower of Jesus -- what I am capable of, what worries me, how to lead, how to handle high levels of stress, how to seek Him first when so much other stuff pressed harder and louder, when to rest, when to laugh, how to see Him, how to hear Him, when to ask for forgiveness, when to stay still, when to speak, when to stay silent, how to wait, how to miss.  I haven’t cracked the surface of what I have learned.  But now I’m back and now it’s time to leave.  

As I write, the clock next to me ticks, reminding me that it is time.  And all I can think about is the story of the wealthy man in Matthew 19.  The man asked Jesus what good thing he needed to do to get eternal life.  Jesus told him to keep the commandments.  The man asked which ones.  Jesus told him: “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.”  The man told Jesus he had kept all the commandments Jesus listed.  And so Jesus responded: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.”  The man looked at Jesus and then turned and walked away.  I have read this story and thought the man’s response unthinkable.  He was standing face-to-face with the Lord Jesus and instead of surrendering his money and following Jesus’ call, he turned and walked away.  Unthinkable.     

If I am honest, though, my heart right now wants to do the unthinkable.  It is turning in on itself and wanting not just to walk away, but to run.  It says stay with the safer choice, the thing you know, the thing you know you are good at.  No one would question you.  No one would shame you for reassessing and changing your mind.  Not to walk away takes more courage than I feel capable of invoking.  Pressing forward and setting out to follow feels nearly unbearable, like being too close to a raging fire.  My heart screams out deep inside: I am scared!  I am too scared!  But it is the very thing that makes me want to stay – the success at trial – that makes me know I can leave.  Without that experience at trial and all that he showed me, I would not be able to follow his call.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer put words to the questions Jesus is whispering to my heart:

Will you let my grace conquer you?
Will you let my love take your life?      

My answer is yes.  You, Lord, are “my light and my salvation – so why should I be afraid?” (Ps 27:1)

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