I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and been hearing in various places about “My life going forward”. Interestingly, it’s also got me thinking about my life in the recent past.
A little less than a year ago, I picked up a book on the advice of a friend. That book is the The Barbarian Way by Erwin Rafael McManus. I read through it and found that my passion, my vision and my “life going forward” were dramatically changed as a result. It wasn’t so much McManus’s ideas that changed me, but the way he framed scripture that changed me.
For years, I have sat in church or at home and read in my Bible these words:
“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very soul?” Luke 9:20-25
I don’t know about you, dear reader, but it was easy for me over the last 45 years to gloss over this and pretend Jesus wasn’t saying that the Christian life would cost me something. For years, I believed something more akin to this version–quoting from McManus here:
“So what is this good news? The refined and civilized version goes something like this: Jesus died and rose from the dead so that you can live a life of endless comfort, security, and indulgence. But really this is a bit too developed. Usually it’s more like this: if you’ll simply confess that you’re a sinner and believe in Jesus, you’ll be saved from the torment of eternal hellfire, then go to heaven when you die. Either case results in our domestication. One holds out for life to begin in eternity, and the other makes a mockery out of life.”
Again, quoting from McManus, “The original call of Jesus was so simple, so clean, so clear: “Follow Me.” He wants us to surrender our lives to Him and follow Him into the unknown. And if it means a life of suffering, hardship, and disappointment, it will be worth it because following Jesus Christ is more powerful and more fulfilling than living with everything in the world minus Him.”
When my husband and I woke up to this the first time (November of last year), our plans for a comfortable retirement at 50 or 55 with a condo in Florida and playing for the rest of our lives suddenly seemed an empty and hollow goal. Is this really what we’re supposed to do? Is my life really only supposed to be about my pleasure? Is that all there is for the 2nd half of my life?
This was actually an astounding set of questions for us to be asking. We’d planned this for so long, been dreaming of the day for 24 years when our children were grown and we could finally enjoy what we had to set aside when we first learned our daughter was on the way. We’d watched friends play in their 20’s and early 30’s, finally settling down to have children when our daughter was heading into the tween years. We’d scraped and saved to raise a family on our early career salaries. I’d foregone the stay-at-home Mom role, so that we could pay rent, eat, etc. Now with the youngest out of high school, we were finally going to get our turn. Until we read this book and until we saw a drama at church.
The drama compared two middle-aged couples. One waiting to hear if their application to become missionaries in Guatemala was accepted, the other waiting to hear if their application for a mortgage on a condo in Florida was approved. The message? What’s your life going to be about going forward?
Some of you know what happened next, and if you do, please scroll down so you don’t have to read it again. Some do not! About the same time, I came across a picture of a boy and then saw that he had a brother. These two boys were 11 and 10 and in foster care due to educational neglect. And God said, in a very clear whisper to my heart, “Bring them home.” We spent the next 6 months jumping through all the hoops the state required in order to follow God’s command to bring them home. They’ve been with us now for 4 months and exactly one year and two days after God whispered to my heart, they will become our sons forever.
Jesus said “Follow Me”. He never said it would be easy. He never said it would be fair. He never said we would get everything we wanted. In fact, He made it very clear…If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.
So what is my “life going forward”? I will give up the world’s definition of a successful life and fully embrace Jesus’s definition.