If spoken words can have flashing lights, these did. And if they can come at a person like blazing darts, these did just that.
“We are all disciples of something,” he said. “Whether we’re following Jesus or not, we’re all disciples.”
And for a few minutes, I retreated into my own world, right there on the front row of my church, mid-sermon. Because as the speaker went on with his message, those words echoed on and on, resounding two words in my ears: love idol.
Truth be told, those words have been echoing in my mind for a few weeks now, echoing in my ears like my own heartbeat.
Love idol. Love idol. Love idol.
It started when I was reading the new book by Jennifer Lee and working on smashing my own idol. But expressing it that way – that I am a disciple of whatever I pursue first – somehow got at the heart of the matter in a different way.
To be a disciple means “to follow.” And I’ll follow whatever I’m watching. Ancient travelers watched the northernmost star to orient themselves in the right direction. Pilots orient themselves by the horizon. And on this journey I’m taking through life, something will have to be my focal point and guiding light. I’ll keep my bearings according to something. It may not physically orient my body, but more importantly, it will orient my heart and my mind.
It may not be a star in the sky, but I’ll have to keep my eyes on something. Otherwise, who knows where I’ll end up…and who knows how the journey will go?
The hard truth, though, is that though I profess to be a follower of Christ, I’ve been more of a fellow traveler with Him. I look around more than I look up.
Just this morning, as I drove my daughter to school, I sat waiting with a procession of other commuters at a red light. In a daze and heading into the sun, I kept my eyes on the car in front of me instead of the traffic signal itself. As a result, when that car – a huge SUV – made its move through the intersection, I moved, too. Unfortunately, the light was still red. Fortunately, we both realized it before we got very far and stopped before anything calamitous could happen.
That was scary, and I learned my lesson. In life, though, I am not so quick to learn. As I commute through life, I too often space out and lazily watch others around me. I use their behavior as an indicator of how I should act, and use their approval as a barometer of how well I am doing.
The hard realization I came to yesterday in church was that I have been a disciple of other people….rather than a disciple of Christ. Rather than being consumed by Him, I’ve been consumed by thoughts of other people. Instead of being obsessed with the things He’s obsessed with, I’ve been obsessed with what other people say I should be obsessed with. Instead of following His lead, moving when He says to move and staying put when He says to stop, I move when other people move…and move in the direction they say I should. Instead of trying to be more like Him, I’ve been trying to make myself more like the world….
…and that’s precisely what a follower of Christ should not do.
The consolation came for me during the sermon, too, though. Because in a message about discipleship, Jesus graciously reminded me of His selection process when He was forming His circle of closest friends here on earth.
He chose the fishermen. The tax collectors. The “disreputable characters” of the world (Matthew 9 MSG). He purposely went to the people who had not measured up to the world’s standards – the ones who didn’t earn the world’s approval – and said to them, “You. I choose you.”
So it seems that though looking at other people is the way of the world, looking around earns us nothing in the way of Jesus. If we look up into His eyes when He calls us, we’ll find our bearings for the journey we’re meant to take. We’ll find the approval we’ve been searching for, and we’ll finally be focused on Something worth following.