Two very simple and easy to understand words…but taken together, the phrase can be very difficult to wrap your head around.
In those two words are found the very foundations of the Christian faith. In those two words we find the self-denial, the obedience, the dependence on the Shepherd, the discipleship, the faith and the trust that are the hallmarks of what it means to be Christian.
But the two things that really stand out to me most about that short but troubling phrase are giving up control and not knowing where you’re heading.
When you stop to think about it – a commitment to follow Jesus is a commitment to give up control. I’m not in charge now, I’m following Jesus. I’m putting my footsteps into His and choosing to walk where He has walked. Letting go is a very big deal.
In our culture whether you’re a Christian or not, control is something you’re brought up to desire and to seek out. When you’re in control, you tell yourself, you’re less likely to be surprised. And surprises are to be avoided at all costs because they can be painful.
So we learn to take control, not only of our lives but we try to grab control of the lives of others as well…even when they have nothing to do with us. We grab control anyway, ’cause you just never know what might happen.
But following Jesus is all about letting go. It’s about relinquishing control, taking your hands off, and getting your nose out of other people’s business. A decision to follow Jesus is an admission that you are not in charge, nor should you be. You are not in a position to control everything and everyone because…you’ve decided to follow Him. You can’t be in control and following Him at the same time.
The other crazy truth about the decision to follow Him is the stark reality that you don’t know where you’re going! All you see in front of you is Jesus. He is the one leading. He knows what is over the horizon and around the bend, you don’t. In fact, your destination is on a “need to know” basis and you don’t need to know because, again, you’re following Him.
This is very tough for someone raised in our culture to do. We are a very goal-oriented, goal-driven society. We’re taught in school and in business and in ministry that the first thing you must do is set your goal (determine your destination). The next thing you do is make your plan, charting the course to the destination. Lastly, you should design specific and measurable action steps that you can take to accomplish your plan and thereby fulfill your goal.
That’s the formula for success right there. And it’s a great formula.
Unless, of course, you’ve decided to follow Him.
When you follow Him the destination is not only shrouded in fog, it’s usually not even important! One of the truths of God’s kingdom that’s so hard for us to grasp is that He’s already determined the destination…that’s been set. So the only thing left for us is what we learn (or don’t learn) along the way.
So do you trust Him enough to give up control and give up the need to know everything, even your own destination, to simply follow Him?
This hits me especially hard right now because it’s right where I’m walking. I’ve determined to follow where He leads. And yes, I’m learning just how difficult it is to actually be faithful in that decision. I’m learning to glean satisfaction and fulfillment not from “look I did it myself!” but “look I’m still following!”
It’s simple but it’s not easy.
(This post was inspired by a talk at Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, CA by Chuck Bomar from Colossae Church in Portland, OR. Thanks Chuck for the insight!)