Imperfect Progress

Since God led me to a place of pedal-to-the-metal faith, I’ve been doing my (faulty) best to be an intentional disciple-maker. Jesus had buddies around him all the time. Not necessarily men & women he found amusing or special, but people he prayed overnight for (seeking divine guidance) prior to approaching with the invitation: come & follow. Not being a Bible scholar, I can only say that it appears to me the trick of his discipleship was, fairly simply, to live. To be present in the lives of those around him. To care for them. To eat with them. To fart with them (I’m making an assumption here. But weren’t they human?!). To spur them into greater acts of love. Jesus let the men & women around him bear witness to the everyday miracles of His life (and ultimately, in their faithfulness as disciples, they bore witness to the one-time-miracle of his resurrection!).

I’m no Jesus, but I do believe he has done & IS NOW DOING miracles in my life. So I’ve tried to be like him, to invite. To say, “Come, follow Jesus with me; come bear witness to the miracles he does in my life.” And I’ve done this with expectant hope of seeing miracles in those whom I disciple as well.

So miniature hooligans have been following me around for 2 years now. I love my alone time, (& still maintain a healthy amount for my own sanity!) but am rarely found going to events or doing activities alone.  Every moment of training I received from the people I’m a disciple of has kept me alive spiritually. The people who have allowed me to be privy to corners of their lives, who haven’t hidden their messes from me & have not condemned me for mine. Those people are game changers & as their disciples, I’m working out the new game in my life. Our weapon is love & few things communicate love to a child (most of my disciples are YOUNG, because…I’m young) like time; sharing adventures & everyday tasks with them. There’s an army rising up & how will they fight if they are not trained?

It’s cool to have these people learning from me, often copying or mimicking my words & behavior. But it’s also extremely not cool. Because they see me text & drive. They hear me yell at my parents. They feel the angry tension that bubbles out in bad traffic. They catch that cuss word that rolls off my tongue as I roll over the curb in the Mickey D’s drive thru. As surely as they follow my example in prayer, in service, in love, they will follow my example in anger, in impatience, in a lack of grace for myself & others.

Lots of days I want to throw in the towel. I want to go somewhere ALONE. I want to nix the whole trying to set a good example thing because CLEARLY my example is not-so-good. But Jesus didn’t ask me to set a perfect example. He didn’t ask me to get it all figured out & then go graft people in. Nope. He said, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go & proclaim the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:60)

He didn’t say, if you can’t love perfectly than give up & quit trying to love at all.  Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other. (John 13:34-35, MSG)

Jesus did not demand that I BE him. He asked that I love the same way he loved & that I lay down the heavy burdens, not make an even heavier one!

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary & carry heavy burdnes, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble & gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)

The kids see me sinning. They are perceptive & can easily tell I am broken. But they also see what I do with it. Do I cover my sin up? Do I self medicate my pain? Do I let my frustration come out as jellyfish barbs thrown into stinging hearts? Do I put burdens on them, rules they have to follow, standards I can set up to try & catch someone in a trap that will put me above them in twisted holiness?

I want them to see me wrestling. I want them to see me hating my sin but learning not to hate myself. I want them to see their cooky, whimsical, engaging, awkward, hyper, older friend being set free. That’s the miracle they are around to bear witness to: being set free by Jesus himself. God working on me from the inside out. My fervent hope is that they will see this freedom & seek it for themselves. That they will see the relationship that gives me wings & learn to fly on their own!

Making disciples is creating a family. Oftentimes, it is a deeper-than-biological family, but it’s a relationship that sends its members back out in pursuit of their biological family. Disciples of Christ welcome prodigals with open arms but don’t shy away from sending those prodigals amongst the wolves. Disciples are concerned with purpose more than with avoidance of discomfort. We challenge. We encourage. We don’t back down from the mess we see in one another. Disciples aren’t fearless, but they don’t let fear control them. At their finest, disciples have crucified their emotions, their desires, & let the wild & holy Spirit take over.

Last week I worked at a Literacy Program for “underprivileged” kids. One of my disciples accompanied me as a helper each day. I wanted them to see me & other adult Disciple-makers in action. (If all I do is take them out to eat, pamper them, are they really learning the spiritual life skills it takes to live in Christ’s victory?) After some rough conversations that left me wondering if all I’m doing is creating more little Pharisees like myself (hypocritical enemies of King Jesus), I found what is pictured below. Back story: throughout the course of the reading program I would write encouraging notes on the mini Expo boards that the kids used, as the Spirit led. Hippy Jesus type stuff. (Let it be known I was very COVERT about this endeavor, by the way. I wanted the children to receive these as words from God, not from Miss Lydia)

One child writing such words to another. BE STILL MY FLIPPIN HEART!
One child writing such words to another. BE STILL MY FLIPPIN HEART!

Wow. Maybe discipleship DOES leave an impact. They may pick up on the anger, as well as unimportant things like my affinity for thumb rings & chick fil a & reggae music, but they pick up on my words too. They pick up on the life & power that trickles through my soul after deep times of communion with the Lord. They pick up on the deliberate love I try to show. May their eyes be opened to the LOVE God has for US & to his life-changing grace.

We are infinite. As the universe, we hold each other tight.~Sleeping at Last

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