I have been thinking about control these days. Am I in control of my life? Where am I going? What are my plans? What road am I on?
I was reminded last week of this verse...
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Mark 8:34)deny... take up ...and follow
...and I began thinking about what it means to follow Jesus, really follow, not just words ...but like Matthew did.
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. (Matthew 9:9)
Get up and GoIs it that straight forward? I mean really. Just get up and go... and follow? The scripture doesn't reveal what kind of thoughts went through Matthew's head. Had he been thinking about following Jesus? Did he plan for that moment? Had he already decided this was the course of action? Did he think about how different things were going to be? Did he have any idea? Perhaps, we don't know. But we do know what God wanted us to know about Matthew and his response to Jesus. He "got up and followed him."
As I read in the Bible all the accounts written about Jesus and those who followed him I am struck at just how real it was to follow Jesus. It wasn't simply an intellectual exercise as I have so often mistakenly narrowed it down to. It wasn't only associating oneself with a group of people and their beliefs. It wasn't just picking a religion. It was much more encompassing, much more real.
It was about real life action. Real work, real steps, real effort, but with a focus outside of oneself. A focus on Jesus.
A Way of LifeIt was a radical changing from one daily way of living to another. It was a way of life. It was giving up control of where you wanted to go and what you thought you wanted to do. It was giving up the control of your life and following where God wanted to take you.
Bruce Carter shared a poem last week at Valley View Community Church that has helped me see the words "I follow Christ" a little clearer as I begin a new year.
"What did the cross mean for Jesus? The cross was the ultimate test of his obedience to his Father's will. It was the final exam for Jesus. It was the hardest thing he ever had to do. The cross represented Jesus' submission to the will of God. So taking up our cross means submitting our lives to the will of God as well. Following Jesus means giving up control of our life and turning it over to him. And that can be excruciatingly painful at times. In fact, the word excruciating literally means "out of the cross." But it can be exhilarating as well because that's really when the adventure of following Jesus begins.
A few years ago a good friend of mine who's in her eighties now and spent her whole life on the adventure sent me a poem called the Road of Life. It's a poem that paints a graphic picture of what it means to let go of our lives and turn them over to God. And it goes like this."
Road of LifeAt first, I saw God as my observer, my judge,
keeping track of the things I did wrong,
so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die.
He was out there sort of like a president.
I recognized his picture when I saw it,
but I really didn’t know him.
But later on when I met Jesus,
it seemed as though life were rather like a bike ride.
But it was a tandem bike,
and I noticed that Jesus was in the back helping me pedal.
I don’t know just when it was
that he suggested we change places,
but life has not been the same since.
When I had control, I knew the way.
It was rather boring, but predictable ...
It was the shortest distance between two points.
But when he took the lead,
He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains,
and through rocky places at breakneck speeds.
It was all I could do to hang on!
Even though it looked like madness,
He said, “Pedal!”
I worried and was anxious and asked,
“Where are you taking me?”
He laughed and didn’t answer,
and I started to learn trust.
I forgot my boring life
and entered into the adventure.
And when I’d say, “I’m scared,”
He’d lean back and touch my hand.
He took me to people with gifts that I needed,
gifts of healing, acceptance, and joy.
They gave me gifts to take on my journey,
my Lord’s and mine.
And we were off again.
He said, “Give the gifts away,
they’re extra baggage, too much weight.”
So I did, to the people we met,
and I found that in giving I received,
and still our burden was light.
I didn’t trust him at first,
to control my life.
I thought he’d wreck it.
But he knows bike secrets,
knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners,
knows how to jump to clear high rocks,
knows how to fly to shorten scary passages.
And I’m learning to shut up and pedal,
in the strangest places.
And I’m beginning to enjoy the view
and the cool breeze on my face
with my delightful constant companion, Jesus Christ.
And when I’m sure I just can’t do anymore,
He just smiles and says ... "Pedal!"
Following Jesus to me is staying in the back seat ....and pedaling.
Now, I want to let go at top speed. Let go of the handle bars and throw both hands out and up into the air ...pedaling vigorously. That is the kind of freedom I desire this new year.
top photo credit | bottom photo credit