*I already know that I’m going to get a phone call from my Mom on this one.
I recently started mountain biking with a group of friends. Each Saturday we trek deep through the woods of Pocahantas State Park–dodging trees, forging streams, making laborious climbs up rock and root covered hills. All in the name of fun, togetherness, and exercise.
When I first began, a good friend and fellow rider (we’ll call him “Todd”) immediately noticed that I didn’t have a helmet. Concerned for my safety, he would lend me an extra helmet he had. Nice guy, that Todd.
But this past Saturday the group was a bit bigger than normal. One person bigger than the number of helmets, in fact. And guess which one? Yep, there I was standing at one of the trail openings with my group of helmeted friends, ready to embark on a new (more technical) trail — helmetless.
I shrugged it off, playing the “tough guy” card. (Anyone who knows me knows that’s a laughable card for me to play.) I assured my fellow bikers, with the deepest voice I could muster: “I’ll be fine. Don’t worry about me……..Let’s do this.” And off we went.
The trail was actually my favorite trail I’ve biked so far. It had plenty of tight turns, downhill grades, uphill challenges, and even a couple log jumps thrown in for good measure. But make no mistake about it: there were a couple very specific moments on that trail yesterday that I was especially mindful that my head was unprotected; a sharp turn in the trail where water/mud had collected, which was right next to a large tree. As I rode cautiously past, I fully realized and appreciated the very real potential of my head becoming one with the tree. As I went safely by, I would quietly thank God that I was safe and even having a blast.
A common Christian prayer is “Lord, protect me from (fill in the blank).” Before a long road trip, before going to work, before getting on a plane and in all kinds of places, God’s protection over our lives seems to be fairly important to us. And just like me on that trail yesterday, we’re ever mindful of when it seems to be missing. Thankfully those times are rare since we seem to take for granted that God will protect us. Our thinking goes something like this:
God loves me.
Since God loves me, God wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to me.
God will show His love for me by not letting anything bad happen to me.
But what if God’s first desire for you isn’t to be protected? What if God’s first desire for you is to be faithful? Let me take you back to a time in Jesus’ earthly ministry when one of His disciples asked about that. Look at John 21:21-22:
“When Peter saw him [referring to John], he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”
When it comes to God’s desire for you, everything else is second place to faithfulness. It would seem that Peter was asking a legitimate question in response to Jesus’ 3 charges to Peter: “Tend my lambs.”, “Shepherd my sheep.” and “Tend my sheep.” (NASB) It reminds me of when I tell my youngest daughter that she needs to clean up her room and her first response starts off with the words “But what about…???” as she points to her older sister who is seated comfortably on the couch.
In our desire for equity, justice, and fairness we lose sight of the fact that Jesus calls YOU and Jesus calls ME. While Jesus certainly calls US corporately, I don’t see any US in Scripture that will stand before God in judgement as an US. YOU will stand before Him and I will stand before Him.
What then should be our first desire? Is it coincidence that 11 of the Apostles were martyred and the twelfth was left for dead on an island by himself? That doesn’t sound like God’s first priority for them was their protection. But because they were faithful–faithful to share the Good News with someone, who in turn shared it with someone, who shared it with someone else, who shared it with me–I am sitting here forgiven of all I have done and ever will do, with the deepest desire of my heart to simply be faithful to the One who has protected me.