Estie, my middle daughter, returns from Zambia this morning. She’s been there for three months practicing nursing skills. It’s been a difficult journey – not one that most of us would take or even consider.
Many of us have an in-built need for stability that can run amok. If we hang around a place or a situation long enough, it becomes drably predictable. It’s easy to just go through the motions. I guess this is why the Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please him.”
Jesus combated this tendency in his disciples by destabilizing them. He didn’t grow his disciples in classrooms, but in the hard-knocks realm of real life. He regularly switched up the things that made their lives predictable, moving them from place to place. Thrown into the deep end, they had to rely on God, sometimes going to him with feelings of desperation. And in so doing, they learned to begin thinking first as kingdom citizens. The process took three solid years and for most modern Jesus-followers, it needs to take longer.
So how does this work for us? I asked Karen about it and she said, “I don’t know, I just grabbed on to you coat tails and just hung on!” And maybe that’s what happens to a lot of us, whether through choice – through the adventures we have – or often, through pain. I tend to look at pain as a kind of curse, a sign that I’ve have fallen out of favor with God. But he tells us, “If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God…” (1 Peter 4:16)
Jesus asked his followers to leave everything for a season so they might learn to see with spiritual eyes. They went on a destabilizing journey that forced them to depend on God. Most of you have been on a journey like that of one sort or another. For example, you go off to college with a couple of suitcases. Or, leaving home on your own, you get your first job. Your apartment is empty, so you go shopping for furniture at garage sales. Your bank account may be stuck near zero, yet you’re unencumbered.
But there are other kinds of journeys that throw our lives out of balance and send us in God’s direction. The journey of divorce, the journey of unemployment, the journey of an extended illness. None are welcome, but God can use all of them to force us to depend on him.
I aspire to the kind of vision Paul describes in the first chapter of Ephesians: “your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what he is calling you to do…” But most of the time, I prefer the hazy vision that comes with a comfortable lifestyle. Most of us are comfort-seekers. We need something really important to pry us out of our recliners.
Knowing this can perhaps help us to change our perspective, so that we make peace with the sometimes painful life changes that God uses to drive us into his arms. And when our journey takes us far from our comfort zones, those of us who aspire to follow Jesus in a radical way can perhaps consider things that earlier in our lives might have seemed crazy.
No, he doesn’t necessarily want you to go to Zambia, but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t send you on some other wild journey that is no less predictable.