Decision Time. Do I really want this?
There’s a story about Jesus. He’s teaching in the synagogue when a guy, called Jairus, rushes in and falls at his feet, begging him to come and heal his daughter who is literally “at the point of death” (Mark 5:23). On the way to Jairus’ house, Jesus is stopped by a woman with a chronic health condition. Jesus’ response to her is beautiful, taking all the time to not only heal her body but show value for her soul.
But imagine Jairus! Screaming inside for Jesus to Come On! Filled with anxiety.
Jesus did heal Jairus’ daughter in the end. Yet John Mark Comer (whose book ‘The Ruthless Elimination Of Hurry is the basis for this blog series) writes,
“Every time I read that story, I’m struck by how fiercely present Jesus was, how he just would not let anything or anyone, even a medical emergency or a hurting father, rush him into the next moment.”Emphasis is added by me.
And this is no one-off. Half the stories in the Gospels are Jesus being interrupted, it happened constantly. Yet he never comes off as annoyed, anxious, or rushed. His schedule was full but he was never hurried.
“This rootedness in the moment and connectedness to God, other people, and himself weren’t by-products of a laid-back personality type or pre-WiFi world; they were the outgrowths of a way of life. A whole new way to be human that Jesus put on display in story after story.”
If we read the Gospels asking ourselves: how did Jesus live, how did he spend his time? We notice several things….
- He regularly got up early to get time with his Father in quiet
- He would go away for a day or even a few weeks to get away from the crowd and gather himself to God
- More than once we read of Jesus sleeping in and his disciples having to wake him up
- Every chance he gets Jesus enjoys a meal with friends and finds opportunities to have deep conversations about life
- And every single week he gives a whole day to rest and worship. He practices Sabbath.
And then he turns around and says: “Follow me.”
To follow Jesus is to take his life as our pattern, to learn to live the way he lived. Central to this is the question:
How would Jesus live if he were me?
Now, Jesus was a first century single Jewish man. None of us are. But we’re actively asking the question: what can we learn from how Jesus lived, the things he taught, and the way he guides us now by the Holy Spirit, to ask how Jesus would live if he were me?
What we’re really talking about here is a rule of life.
It has become popular in the world of self-help to talk about the need to shape our schedules around our values. This practice began in the monastery not the marketplace. Thousands of years ago monastic orders and entire communities began to schedule their lives around simple practices that enabled them to give time to what was really important.
This was called a rule of life.
For some, ‘rule’ sounds too restrictive. But think less about ‘law’ and more about ‘ruler’ (it comes from the Latin regulae, meaning ‘straight piece of wood’) – something that helps our lives line up.
Better still, think of a trellis. Jesus described himself as the vine and us as the branches. Anyone who abides in him bears fruit just as a branch receives fruit-producing life from the vine….yet anyone separated from the vine can do nothing. Now think of your favourite wine drinking memory. Remember, that under every succulent vine there is a trellis that holds it together.
“What a trellis is to a vine, a rule of life is to abiding. It’s a structure – in this case a schedule and a set of practices – to set up abiding as the central pursuit of your life.
If a vine doesn’t have a trellis, it will die. And if your life with Jesus doesn’t have some kind of structure to facilitate health and growth, it will wither away.
Following Jesus has to make it onto your schedule and into your practices or it will simply never happen. Apprenticeship to Jesus will remain an idea, not a reality in your life.”Emphasis is added by me
The challenge is that many of us feel too busy to create space for Jesus like this; to give time to adopting the kind of practices and habits that we’ll explore later in this blog and Comer describes in his book.
Many of us will respond to Comer’s ideas or our suggestions of practices saying, “I love the idea…but it could never work for me….I’m [INSERT EXCUSE HERE]….”
A lot of our excuses come from good and substantial things – responsibilities and pressures of our complex lives: demanding jobs, shift work, caring for children or others, investing in community, playing in sports teams.
Yet Comer suggests we gently push back on ourselves and ask, how much time do we give to more trivial things? Like TV, social media, shopping…. When he’s suggested people keep a time log of their week, they’ve often been amazed by the time they do actually have.
If we’re still responding: not me, I am genuinely too busy….well then we may have to face a simple but difficult truth:
No guilt trip. Just an honest appraisal. One that means we have a choice to make.
You see: following Jesus is something you do – it is about practices as much as faith. At their core the practices of Jesus are about relationship with Father God….and all relationships take time.
Imagine your spouse asking you for more time, for say one evening a week of quality time and 30 minutes a day to catch up undistracted. Pretty minimal. If you’re response is “Sorry, I don’t have time”, then, whether you’re wasting it on trivialities or spending it on ‘important’ things, it’s totally fair (though painful) for your spouse to ask: “Do you really have time or desire for me?”
Is our relationship with Jesus any different?
This is not a guilt trip. It’s honesty time. And it’s an invitation. To the life we actually ache for. The life Jesus has made possible for us and longs to give us if we choose to truly follow Him.
So we hit a crossroads. Do we want to shape our lives around following Jesus, to put in place one (or maybe two) simple practices that make time for relationship with Jesus and abiding in him?
This is at the heart of our call as Church at Barking Riverside – to create space for Jesus in our daily lives through habits. We do it together, helping each other think creatively of what it looks like for us, encouraging each other through the ups and downs, by making one of those habits meeting together in hubs.
We can walk this together.
But only you can decide: do I want to follow Jesus enough to change the way I live?