I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a disciple of Christ.Certainly this means I’m a follower, but it also means I should be more than that–I should be an emulator. I was proctoring a final exam last night, reading Brennan Manning’s meditative Signature of Jesus, and practicing the discipline of living on two levels–what every Christian truly should do. It’s hard. But it’s what it means to be an emulator, a follower, one on whose heart God has carved his name.
There’s a couple sides to this difficult issue. One is the discipline side; the other the friendship side. The former actually comes naturally once the latter is truly understood. The problem, as I experience it, is that we just don’t understand what it means to be like Abraham, whom God counted as his friend–or like John, who understood that he was the disciple whom Jesus loved. Who understood it!
The focus we often–I often–obsess over is the many failings. And this is right. We fail him always. I cannot count a single time when I didn’t fail God in some way. But the problem here is that I stop with this fact. There was once this woman I knew who had a term for this bad habit–having our eyeballs in backwards she called it. Focused on the sinner, not the forgiver. How can one be a friend when one’s primary attention is one’s own behavior, not on the friend’s? How can one get to know somebody better when all one sees is one’s own performance? I truly have inside out eyeballs.
I recently heard that how we see ourselves determines how we see the world. This is true. But it isn’t just the way we tend to interpret it that makes this phrase true. From what angle do we look at ourselves? From our own skewed inside out redeye or from the filter of Jesus’ love? I remember hanging out with S, my best friend, when we were still both living in Spokane. She was a wonderful, joyful, generous spirit, around whom you couldn’t help but feel comfortable and valued. After a couple years of hanging out with her, I had a whole new perspective on myself. She was so generous (though never would call herself that) that I found I was not thinking about myself so much when around her. In fact, I saw myself as only a peripheral participant in my life. You see, how we see ourselves–as either the primary figure in every myopic scene of our selfish existence or as a bit player in a much more intricate and amazing drama–how we see ourselves determines how we see the world. If I’m looking only through my inside out eyes, the world is bleak indeed. If, on the other hand, I choose to watch Jesus, then I see both the world and me in a wholly different light.
I fail Jesus not only every day, but so many times each day it’s beyond my quantitative skill (which, by the way, is repeatedly recorded to be not that great). Yet oddly enough, I’m still keeping track. Maybe not like a talley, but definitely as mood lighting informing the whole tone of the Bonjee Show.
I need to, the two levels of health and spiritual freedom–since they are simply the life of being present in the world and the life of being in the presence of God. Pardon me as I lapse a bit existential, but by the latter I mean actively being in the presence of God, being aware of being in his presence, adoring him. When too busy over oneself, one cannot be adoring God. And the present in the world stuff–well, I find that if I fail to be in the presence of God, I’m not that good at being present in the world either. There’s this phenomenon in the workplace about people coming to work sick, but while there, getting basically nothing done. They call it–as a spin on the concept of ‘absenteeism’ —presenteeism. I think that’s perfect. When I am not in the presence of God, I’m a presentee in my own life: there, showing up, but too spiritually sick to get anything of value done.
And then what sort of disciple can I be? A follower? An emulator? A friend? Not hardly.
Thank God for his grace, for his friendship, for his patience, for his love. My prayer is not that I will be better. That’s just obsessing again. Rather, my prayer is that I will be overwhelmed, that all of us infidel disciples will be overwhelmed, with his goodness and patient love.
There’s nothing like love to transform a person in ways guilt can’t.