Out of all the commandments, we are given throughout Scripture, there is one that smacks me in the face multiple times every day. While most of them are pretty cut and dry, Jesus’ words, “Follow me,” is a commandment I contemplate on a daily basis.
While each of us is called to follow Jesus as Christians, the path we are being led down differs. I believe this short commandment produces more intimacy in our relationship with Jesus than all of the others combined. It is the one that is most clearly obeyed upon nothing more than trust and faith.
I attended a private Catholic elementary school growing up. However, being a Catholic wasn’t important in my life until about four years ago. I have now started RCIA classes three different times, currently waiting for Easter more than ever. I have always believed in Jesus and the fact that He died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins. However, it wasn’t until the winter of 2010 when I first began to take the words, “Follow me,” seriously.
I was in the second of a seven-month jail sentence. My mother had learned I’d been seeing a Protestant preacher during a weekly visitation and mailed me the first two books of the series “Catholic For a Reason,” by Scott Hahn. It was after reading these books that I first began thinking about pursuing a degree in theology. Becoming a member of the Catholic Church was still a long way off, but I finally developed a desire to experience a personal relationship with Jesus.
I would like to say I continued following Jesus the morning my incarceration ended, but I think He was left behind after the second or third block of my walk home. By mid-afternoon, I was sitting at the bar I had been at the night I was arrested. Within a matter of weeks, I was wrapped up in addiction more than ever. Life grew dark very quickly. I can’t remember much from that season of my life. I still take a few minutes to thank God for that time period every day.
Once my drinking had taken me further from God than I had ever been, I found myself at a faith-based recovery home in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. After knowing about Jesus my entire life, I finally began making decisions that led to getting to know Him personally. The director of the program taught me how to begin forming a meaning prayer life. I learned how to read the Scriptures in a way I could understand and relate to the characters. I also received a scholarship to Aidan University to study theology and begin my career as a Christian writer.
My time in Florida is where I also began learning what it meant to follow Jesus. Although I am still nowhere near perfection, there have been some significant lessons I have learned over the last few years. For starters, “Follow me,” doesn’t mean I am going to have a position within the Church. There are times when the only people I am used to inspiring are my wife and daughter. While many of us have dreams of delivering a speech or writing an article that inspires hundreds of people to seek Jesus, more often than not I am used to reaching those I am closest to.
Following Jesus has also led me to the process of finally converting to the Catholic Church. I am currently in RCIA for what has been the third time. This time with a willingness to realize I don’t need to understand something in order for it to be accurate. While I know there will be plenty of non-Catholics spending eternity in the presence of God, I fall in love with the Church more and more the closer I grow to Jesus and the further along I reach in my education. In my opinion, being a Catholic isn’t something we decide to do on our own. It’s a part of the journey for many of us as we grow more serious about our call to follow Him.
Knowing When to Talk and When to Listen
The most important lesson I have learned is to stop asking so many questions and be willing to trust Jesus as He leads me. In the Gospel of St. Mark, Levi is approached by Jesus and told to follow Him. Levi doesn’t spend time asking where it is they are going. He doesn’t question how long it will take to get there. Instead, he leaves his post where he had been collecting taxes and follows Jesus.
I’m starting to get better at reflecting on this passage anytime I am facing circumstances which cause me to begin asking questions. Although I am no longer a betting man, I would consider putting money on the fact that I am not the only one who feels this way from time to time. It’s moments like these when I am forced to realize, I either trust Jesus, or I don’t. He is either my Lord and Savior who I trust with my life, or He isn’t.
A Journey That Changes
I do believe that God has a plan and purpose for each of us. I also believe that these plans can alter as we journey through life. Based on our trust, obedience, and willingness to follow, I think God decides to place us as we show how much He means to us.
I can say this because it was just a few years ago when Jesus was calling me to follow Him on a mission trip to Argentina. I spent weeks in prayer and had this calling confirmed by both people and events in life. The decision to go another path was made, against the advice of several people God had placed in my life. Instead of spending a lengthy period of time at an orphanage, I moved to Texas. The purpose of the move was to get married and try having a daughter of my own. Yes, there was plenty of selfishness involved. Maybe a fear of flying over the ocean also.
Almost two and a half years later, Jesus began telling me to follow Him again. After the many blessings He has given my wife and I, we decided to follow the call and move to northern Indiana. I am still not exactly sure what it is we are doing here. I still pray on a daily basis that writing will be involved.
In my own experience, I have to be willing to follow without asking too many questions. The more I do this, the more Jesus decides to accomplish both in and through me. The greatest blessing I have received from following Jesus’ call is the ability to experience Him in ways I never imagined. It’s also how I hear the call, “Follow me,” more often.