As a boy, I liked nothing better than tagging along with my dad. Sometimes he would take me with him to work, where I would unbox and prepare typewriters for delivery, investigate the trinkets littering his desk, and eagerly anticipate lunch at Mary Mac’s Tea Room or chocolate pie on the swiveling stools at Krystal’s. Other times we would run errands. My father loved to run errands. He would spend $0.50 extra in gas to save $0.22 on some small necessity. And his car was always filled with the smell of pipe tobacco. Borkum Riff was the smell of my childhood. As enthusiasm for the quest waned, the last stop would reveal some small surprise just for me – never demanded, but always produced. My joy in being with my father was never defined by our activity but our proximity.
My Saturdays were completely defined by my father’s agenda. My absolute favorite Saturday activity was to help mow the church yard. Mowing with the riding mower was both terrifying and exhilarating. Navigating the board ramps into the storage room and mowing the steep bank behind the church always produced a surge of adrenaline. My dad’s anxious expressions and “earnest” admonitions, no doubt, increased to the adrenal flow rate. My driving produced tense moments for my father – especially when I ruptured the freon line on the church AC unit. Yet he continued to entrust the job to me. Being with my dad gave me a sense of my place in the world.
As I got older, however, my diverging interests and preferences made my father’s agenda less pleasurable and more drudgerous. Nothing had changed for his part. Yet, now his plans always seemed at variance from my own. Activity trumped proximity. What we did was more important to me than that fact that we were together. My friends got to sleep in and wile away their Saturdays in sports and leisure, while my father’s plans never included those categories. Being with my dad was no longer more important than doing what I liked. Now he is gone and I would love to have a few more days weeding the garden, raking leaves, and running errands. But in the foolishness of youth, following him became more of a chore than a joy.
This danger also awaits us in the Christian life. We are called to follow Christ. Our chief calling as Christians is defined by proximity not activity. Wherever Christ goes and whatever He is doing, we are called to follow him in the going and the doing. Often as young Christians our enthusiasm to be with Him overcomes the calculus of the where and the what. Then, like Peter walking on the water, we take our eyes of Him and begin to look at the wind and the waves. Suddenly following Him does not seem like such a good idea.
How far are you willing to follow? What inconvenience, crisis, relationship, or circumstance will be the place where you say, “this far and no further.” Hebrews reminds us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.” And Jesus has a challenging word for the casual, conditional follower.
Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62
How far will you follow? The prophet, Jeremiah, had taken great risks to follow God’s call. His preaching offended everyone, alienated him from family, and made him the mortal enemy of powerful people. His words were powerful but seemed ineffective. The people did not turn back to God. And God’s judgment was not turned back from the people. He gave up the hope of wife and family and a peaceful life as a priest to be an outlaw, hated and spurned by the very people he suffered to serve.
The Bible preserves for us Jeremiah’s teaching as well as his personal struggles. Like Jeremiah, sorrow, opposition, broken relationships and ineffective ministry can deter us from following Christ. It is easy to quit following, if we are following an idea or activity. But we are called to follow a person. Jeremiah’s struggles resonate with us and challenge us to consider, “how far will we follow?”
Join us this Sunday, October 13, as we consider the challenges we face as we follow Christ. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock. Click here for directions. Come with a friend and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.