I recently had the privilege of hearing a message from one of the founders of a relief organization called Tutapona. Eight years ago, Carl, his wife Julie, and their young family picked up and moved to Uganda to provide trauma and rehabilitation counseling to what would turn out to be thousands of refugees in the area. Carl provided an update of their progress, a victim’s heart wrenching story and the relief she found in the program, and plans for Tutapona‘s expansion to Iraq.
In a sanctuary full of Christians, Carl posed the question of how many Christians were truly followers of Christ. He maintains that to simply believe in Christ as our Lord and Savior, is not enough. A true transformation of the heart will cause a transformation of your life. We are called to be disciples. This term implies active participation on our part. An outward reflection of our inner faith.
Sharing several verses in which Jesus states “Follow Me”, it is pretty clear that Jesus intends us to, indeed, follow Him. (I searched on my own…and stopped counting at 19)
Often, when processing a message, I am gifted with images that help make sense of, and usher important information to be stored and filed in the orderliness of my long term memory. Over the past few days, I have a clear picture of a classroom full of Christians. All have professed to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Jesus silently enters the room and speaks two words.
Now, there is a person in the front, center. Let’s call her A+Disciple. Her hand wildly waving, squirming in her chair, she’s practically shouting, “Ooh, Ooh, Pick me! Pick Me!”. The Christians in the back are mulling things over. I’m sitting in the middle, off to the left, unobtrusively hiding behind someone taller than I am. I take a couple of deep, bracing, breaths. You know the kind; in through the nose, out through the mouth. And resolutely raise my hand.
If I were to “unpack” my reserved response, I believe it’s not necessarily fear that has me mentally preparing myself. I think it has more to do with the seriousness of the invitation. The knowledge and respect of what this commitment requires. There’s a (not so nice) part of me that wonders if A+Disciple truly appreciates the gravity of what she’s signing up for. At the same time, noticing her unreserved joy at the offer makes me wonder what I am lacking in faith that makes me so somber at the thought of following Him through anymore valleys that I sometimes can’t hold onto the joy of the promise of my final destination?
(This is when I’m reminded of Julie. Bless her beautiful, honest, Christ filled,heart for sharing her lack of joy when first called to uproot her family from a place they’d grown to love and follow Jesus to Iraq. Was she willing to follow wherever He led her? Absolutely. But even she had a moment where she raised her hand without chair squirming, arm waving, JOY. I also like to think maybe she will be saving a seat for me next to her on the bus?)
A+Disciple is skipping to the bus while I am mentally “packing”. Repeating comforting scripture and pondering how many toothbrushes I should bring? After all, God seems to keep His itinerary pretty close to His chest. Now, A+Disciple is, of course, already on the bus, in the front seat, not so patiently waiting for the journey to begin. I see the loving smile Jesus welcomes her with and wonder if I’m worthy of the same reception. After all, I’m not exactly skipping in line, but putting one foot resolutely in front of the other while holding onto the promises written on my heart.
But He does.
He smiles at me with love and understanding. The same invitation. The same reception. Accepting me as I am, where I am.
And those Christians now sitting, watching from the curb? He smiles at them with love too. Patiently waiting for them to pick up their cross, and follow Him too.
The disciples on the bus are surely in for hair pin turns, low valleys, some rough roads (after all, the road less traveled is bound to be bumpy) and the most beautiful destination. Sitting in the middle, staring at Jesus, I find the JOY. When I’m focused on Him, and not what’s coming up ahead, I find the joy in the knowledge that not only has He made a way for me, but He’ll be with me through the whole journey.
So where are you on your discipleship journey? Are you dancing with joy ready to leap into anything He calls you to? Are you sitting, prayerfully waiting for instruction? Or are you still sitting on the curb deciding if you really need to pick up your cross and follow Him?
If you are already on “the bus”, are daring to be a Disciple, please take a moment to view the following video and prayerfully consider supporting the ministry of Tutapona either through prayer or a financial gift and help many more to follow Jesus. ❤