These last few weeks were such a reminder again of the Lord’s nearness as my good. As I drove to work on Thursday, I had some of my favorite music playing when suddenly I was singing (like no one was watching, of course) a completely different tune than the cd in my car, and the words coming out were an overflowing of God’s Spirit through a grateful heart; I always feel so incredibly thankful when He invades my heart and beautifully orchestrates in such an intimate way; it is an ever-constant reminder of His grace and that nothing flowing out of me is beautiful unless it comes from Him. That was clearly evident by some of the nasty bitter thoughts that poured out of my nature later that morning. Oh that we would be dependent every second so that life-giving streams may continually flow from our hearts!
I have been utterly struck lately by the thought that our lives truly are characterized by who we are, and who we love; the choices and beliefs we embrace, and the people that we let into that process are daily determining the kind of man or woman we are now, and the person we will be in the future. And as far as who we love, just take a true glimpse into the 5 dearest people in your life, and see how much of them is reflected in the way that you talk and act, the things that you treasure and believe, and even the likes and dislikes you uphold. It’s strange, isn’t it? We often spend our whole lives trying to be unique amidst the crowd, only to find out that most of our life turns out to be a pretty clear picture of who we chose to emulate.
So, yeah, we should explore the things we love and not be afraid to stand out among our friends or even the world, but more importantly I see the need to truly examine our own hearts and the people that we are following.
I will be the first to say that I have some unbelievable heroes in my life; most of them you will never find on the page of a history book or on a stage to win the Golden Globes, Country Music Awards, or Nobel Peace Prize (though some of you certainly have the talent to do so). Rather they are the remarkable individuals in my daily life who have loved me through times of loss, and have shared with me even the tiniest of joys, and surely the greater triumphs of life. They are the ones who speak truth to me when it is hardest to hear, and the ones who never give up on me when I disappear into myself. Yes my friends, if I have any heroes, it would be you; you are my heroes every single day.
With that said, “Are these the people I should be following or emulating?” Um… perhaps. The Bible does use Paul to express this in a phrase, “follow me as I follow Christ.” Are they the people profoundly shaping the woman I am, and speaking into the woman I am becoming? Absolutely. Are they the ones responsible and truly determining who I will become, and why I get up in the morning? Absolutely NOT. In fact, may it never be!
My dear friends do not be mistaken; do not confuse the river from its source, or the signpost from the path of life. The one is meant to lead or flow into or out of the other, but they are not the same. In fact, confusing their likeness for equality is a grave endangerment. Consider this, no matter how amazing your leaders, friends or heroes are, they are not the spitting image or even slightly a perfect reflection of who you want to be, and they are certainly not where your hope may be found.
When I think of the One person- the only Hero- I strive to imitate, it’s Jesus; simply purely even irresistibly, Jesus! He is the one I want to look like and act like, and have shape the woman I am and ever hope to be. HE is the reason I got up this morning, the reason I press on through the deep valleys of life, and the reason I have been shown undeserved grace despite my often wicked, selfish, and unbelieving heart. He is the only spitting image of the very God I love and who I hope to be. Maybe you think I’m silly or ridiculous, or even some sort of crazy radical. That’s fine; I’ve been called much worse. However, if you do think I’m crazy or out of my gourde, I ask you this in response:
How many of your friends or even your heroes would implore you to give up your possessions, your rights, your body and your very life if you wanted to follow them? However, those same friends would have to be willing to visit the guilty in prison and even be willing to give up their very own life for a criminal on death row. I ask you, how many of your heroes would keep silent while someone tortured them unto death; in that final moment of despair they would cry out a prayer of forgiveness on their behalf rather than a punishment. Would those heroes also give up all their power, status, fame, and fortune to humbly and intimately know you and the true condition of your heart? Do your friends encourage you to forgive your unfaithful partner or the undeserving thief that walks among you; yeah, I do mean the betrayer that defrauded you yesterday or last week and made your heart sink in ashes. Would your friends call you to walk away from the illicit lover or captivating image that is wrongfully stealing your affections? Finally, would your greatest of heroes and your most faithful of friends challenge you to stand up to injustice alone when all your strength is finished, and call you to believe once again in beautiful and impossible things? Would they make the greatest sacrifice of love for you; giving up their only child, or their very own precious blood in exchange for your freedom?
Beloved of God, do not close off your ears to what you have heard today but rather listen and look intently into the law of true love that brings freedom. If your friends and those whom you esteem most highly do a fraction of these things, then it is both lawful and beneficial that you continue walking with them through the seasons of life. However, if they happen to do all of them, then they are the greatest of heroes and the most precious of friends, and only they (or rather Him) should be followed.
Here’s to a life of following Jesus!