Those who follow my blog have noticed the absence of frequent posts lately. I’ve not abandoned this forum but have engaged in an intentional hiatus – a desert/wilderness exercise – to regain a sense of focus in my thought and writing. I’ve been busy during this wilderness experience so my time has not been spent adrift, aimlessly lost in thought. I’ve encountered some surprising things during my wilderness journey. I’m pretty sure I am not out of the wilderness yet. This experience has been exhausting because it requires me to be and function within the tension of emotion and action.
I’m ready to begin posting again. I recognize the time away was needed but I also realized that writing is healing and restorative for me. I missed it.
I recently posted a short message about the topic of discipleship. “What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus today?” I asked. I’m still struggling with this question since, it appears, the answer isn’t quite as simple as I once believed. I’ve read the gospels and I shake my head at Jesus’ disciples. Repeatedly they just don’t get it – discipleship was within their grasp yet they questioned, quarreled, and quit rather than follow. “How could they be so dense?” I ask myself.
I breathe my own self-righteous prayer of “thank you God that I am not like other people…” smug that I have it altogether. I know what it means to be a disciple while others have no clue. I can recite verses of scripture, repeat prayers from rote memory, and robustly sing the hymns of discipleship. Yet, within me there is the persistent question, “Is this all there is to discipleship?”
So here’s what my wanderings have reaffirmed for me:
Discipleship means letting go of my need to control or loosening my grip in order to follow Jesus. I’m much more conscious of attitudes like the one portrayed in a worship presentation at this summer’s General Assembly in which a paralyzed character is asked, “Don’t you want to see Jesus?” and her reply was, “I don’t want to see Jesus. I’ve got to go to church.” Discipleship isn’t about the number of attendance stars on a poster board, but about following and trusting the One who warns us that following will not be easy. Reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer has helped me immensely in this regard.
Discipleship is an ongoing journey. There is no Commencement ceremony but a continuous commencement in the way of following the Risen Christ. Our discipleship journey will bring us into contact with the best and worst moments in life. Discipleship will seat us at tables of plenty and scarcity. It will fill and exhaust our resources. Discipleship will bring us joy and sadness – sometimes confusing us by the places and times when these emotions happen.
I’m still wrestling with the notion of discipleship in our day. I’ve come to realize that I’m no different than the first disciples. I have more to learn and thank God, I have a patient and loving Master who is willing to teach me.