At the ripe old age of 8 I decided that following Jesus was a good idea. Even though I was a pastor’s kid, don’t be fooled. I was still 8. And my brain was too. My life experiences were that of an 8 year old boy. But still. Jesus’ love invaded and I found Him and His forgiveness irresistible.
Not much changed for me at that point. Except the eternal forgiveness part, that is.
As I grew into my teen years and as my brain developed, I began to learn that I lived life from one choice to the next. That in all actuality this is the essence of the human existence: We make a choice, that choice plays out. We make another choice, that choice plays out. And so it goes.
Those who follow Jesus are not at all exempt from this. The choices we make in regards to Jesus and our followership of Him have their own set of results; for better or for worse. And let me be quite clear. While I profess to “follow” Jesus, I’m not comfortable with the possible idea in your mind that I have attained to anything that looks like I’ve got anything figured out. And as a pastor, I’m not sure if I should have just said that.
Speaking of being a pastor, its really irrelevant here. Not that I take it lightly. Or ever have. Or ever will. Its a calling on my life that I tremble at every time I think about it. I want to talk as a fellow follower. I want to share my own experience and my own observations.
First of all, why would I wander off from Jesus? That’s not what I really want to do and that’s definitely not what He wants me to do. But it happens. And from what I can tell, its a nearly universal reality for those who follow Jesus. We wander. Robert Robinson knew it in 1758, when he wrote these words…
“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart Lord, take a seal it. Seal it for your courts above.”
(From “Come Thou Fount”)
Reason to wander #1: I get distracted. I freely admit that getting distracted away from the Creator and Savior of the world sounds about as lame as it gets, but there you have it. Distraction takes many forms.
I get distracted by activity. To me, that’s different than being busy. I know being “busy” is still a badge of honor we Americans proudly wear, and it’s often a word we use to impress others but I’m not what I would consider an overly-busy person. It would be more accurate to say I’m distracted by activity. And if I had to psycho-analyze myself, I’d say that sometimes activity is where I find my sense of worth, my sense of self. Sometimes I allow myself to be defined by what I produce rather than by knowing I’m loved by Christ.
Reason to wander #2: I get bored. As I look at those three words on the screen, I cringe. But if I’m being honest sometimes the walk gets uneventful. The relationship finds a routine, the routine finds a repetitiveness, the repetitiveness makes a rut, the rut feels like religion, and the religion brings rigor mortis.
But here’s the thing. Its not Jesus or following Him that’s boring. Its my choices to play it safe that are boring. You wouldn’t stand in front of a gigantic roller coaster, look up at it while refusing to ride, and call the roller coaster boring. You’re the one playing it safe. Ask yourself: What would radical obedience look like? What if I did exactly what Jesus said to do, instead of doing my scaled-back version of what Jesus said to do?
Reason to wander #3: I buy the lie that the world has got it going on. I’ve been in student ministry for over 20 years. When I see a young person wander off away from Christ to see what the world has to offer, one of two things happens:
They are slowly but surely drawn away from spiritual intimacy with Jesus and spiritual community with others into what amounts to self-centered living (taking a wide variety of forms) and it is years before they return, if ever OR they are drawn into the world’s ways only to find that the promises Satan offers are completely hollow and the thing they thought they’d find ended up being nothing like what they thought it would be. Then they return bruised and broken. I’ve seen it happen so many times to so many students. Its the allure of money, sexual activity, alcohol, drugs, the thrill of rebellion, the dream of fame, sports accolades, or just plain busyness.
(10 times out of 10 when I speak to those students on the other side of those choices, they look back and see that their relationship choices made THE difference. They literally became who they chose to be closest to.)
Reason to wander #4: I believe God is done with me. I used to have a view of God that I could tick him off. That I when I did something wrong that offended or hurt Him, He needed some time to “cool off” before I tried talking to Him again. Eventually, I’d start to believe that I could actually drive God to the point of being done with me. That I could do enough wrong to cause Him to throw His hands up, exasperated at my constant failure.
There’s a story in the bible that people refer to as “The Prodigal Son”. This punk kid wanted his inheritance but didn’t want to wait around for his dad to die so he goes to his dad and says, “I want that money now, not later.” Then the son goes out and lives it up. Then the money runs out. Then he realizes he’s been an idiot. Then he rehearses a speech to give his dad when he returns home. He’s planning on telling his dad that the son is no longer worthy to be the son. And he starts the long journey home.
But “while he was still a long way off, the father ran to him.” You remember that speech the son had worked so hard to prepare? He never got the first word out.
By the way, the word “prodigal” means “reckless, extravagant”. So, as reckless as the son was in his rebellion, the father was even more reckless in his restoration of the son. Maybe we should be calling this story “The Prodigal Father”.
I don’t know where you are with God, but if you think you’re useless to God you need to know that God isn’t primarily interested in using you. He’s supremely interested in loving you. Stop grading yourself. Stop believing God is grading you.
You and I are prone to wander. But the wondrous thing about Jesus is you might wander a million steps away from Him, but the moment you turn back, He’s right there loving you.