Monday, September 11, 2006

Fresh Bread and Other Gifts of Spiritual Nourishment

The Call to Discipleship," from "Fresh Bread and Other Gifts of Spiritual Nourishment", by Joyce Rupp.

On one of my retreat days last summer, I stooped to pick up a fallen cottonwood leaf. My heart had been deep in reflection on discipleship and the leaf suddenly symbolised all that I had been praying. Very neatly eaten out of the leaf was a hole, thumbprint size. The tiny chomp marks of a caterpillar or some avaricious insect could be easily seen. My worn spirit looked long at that leaf. I said to myself, "I feel like that: eaten up by my work; the events of my calendar have taken a large space in me."

I have since asked myself many questions about ministry and the feeling that I sometimes get of being "eaten up." I have gone to God in prayer and questioned how much of myself I can afford to give and how much I need to keep. No easy answers have come but gradually I have learned some lessons about the "holes" I sometimes feel in my spirit.

Morton Kelsey so wisely states in Reaching for the Real, "To one person hard work is only pain; to another it is the opportunity to create something of value." To this I'd add, "To some, hard work is just a chomped out hole in one's spirit; to another, it is an opportunity to create something of value for the Kingdom of God. The secret to living with those empty spaces is to have the attitude of a disciple of Jesus.

I have never gotten used to the truth of discipleship: that to belong to Jesus means more than just a good feeling of being cherished and loved. I still struggle with the fact that there are conditions for discipleship and that "following" means some hard demands and some constant conversion:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life? Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his life?" (Mt 16: 24-26)

Too often I wish for a call free from obstacles, hurt, pain, disturbance, anxiety.

To follow Jesus in discipleship means that sometimes I will be rejected and misunderstood; I may not see results in ministry and I will need to give when nothing seems to be returned. "To follow" is to live with mystery and to walk in faith, knowing we are deeply loved. Even though discipleship is not always easy and even though sometimes we feel like there's a part of us that been eaten out or chewed on, we can still live with a heart of peace and deep joy. The secret is that attitude which Kelsey spoke of: We know we are creating something of value because our hearts are set on the one who invites us to follow.
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