Jesus says, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it (Mk. 8:34-35).”
Earlier this week as I sat in class, I thought about the way God has worked in my life up til now. And as I was trying to figure out how to organize my story, I realized that a new theme follows throughout my story — the question, “Will you follow Me anyway?”
Between my mom’s death, my father-in-law’s death, and the saga of infertility, life doesn’t always turn out the way I hope or pray. Life is broken, messy and complicated. I have unanswered questions. But will I follow Jesus anyway? Will I choose real life with Jesus — or imitation life that I manufacture?
This week the question came up again. As I’ve listened to others talk about babies and pregnancies and miracles, the old seed of bitterness sprouted up again. As we’re looking at adopting older kids, I’m letting go of the dream of babies; I won’t be able to speak to the stories of sleepless nights or colic, baby’s first steps or words, etc. We’re trading for a different kind of story, and we’re excited about that. We really are! Yet, a sharp pang of sadness tinged with bitterness came to roost in my heart this week. Listening to others’ stories of triumph made me jealous.
Simultaneously I found God inviting, “Will you follow Me anyway? Even though this feels like the death of a dream, will you trust that I am leading you to life, true and abundant life?”
What gets in my way the most is that I have a different picture about life than God does. I perceive life as security and having/doing what I want. As Dorothee Soelle in Death by Bread Alone writes, “Our concern is to avoid pain and do whatever is necessary to put food on the table and make ends meet (9).” And what I want is for God to bless that narrow agenda of mine.
Writing this all out makes me feel shallow and small.
At the same time, I don’t think I’m alone this camp either. I think we’ve all got that small picture of what life is or could be that we just want God to make happen for us.
God invites us to something bigger. To trust that God’s view of life, which may seem like loss and pain at the beginning of the journey, will turn into something mind-blowing and incredible as we learn to walk in it. To trust that God’s grace is sufficient for us and that God’s power is paradoxically displayed in weakness (2 Cor. 12).
Are we willing to let go of ourselves and our limited definition of life in order to take hold of what God desires for us? Will we follow Him anyway when He invites us to something bigger and scarier?