picture taken from 7-themes.com
by Charlotte O
This weekend marks a holiday in both of my homes (Taiwan and Canada). If you’re like me, there’s a good chance you’ll be traveling somewhere. If so, you’re probably familiar with being in a ‘caravan’ where you’re either leading or following as part of a group going to a common destination.
This was the case for me recently on a scooter trip in Northern Taiwan. In my opinion, scooter trips are the perfect introvert excursion. You’re with other people, but you get plenty of reflection time as you drive alone on your scooter, stopping every now and then to reconnect. So as I was driving through some incredible mountain scenery, I started thinking about how driving a scooter taught me about following Jesus. The word “follow” occurs more frequently in the Gospels than anywhere else in the Bible. Moreover, it comes with a sense of mission, requires sacrifice, and assumes close relationship.
1. If You’re Going To Follow Someone, You Need To Trust Them.
On that particular day, this meant not trying to get to the front of the pack, because I knew the person ahead of me knew the way. There are often many ways to one destination, but choosing to follow someone shows that you are choosing their way, even if you know other ways, because you find value in traveling together. This principle has far-reaching consequences for things like church and community, which we have talked about before here and here. In our relationship with God, this means choosing HIS way, even when the path doesn’t always seem clear.
In human relationships, this means clear communication and trust built over time so that you can follow someone with assurance that they have all the facts, and that they are, in fact, invested in getting you to the goal. There’s really no point in following someone if you are continually second-guessing the decisions they make. That’s just as bad as following someone who didn’t ask you to.
2. Don’t Follow Someone Who Isn’t Leading.
Just because someone is on the same road as you, doesn’t mean they’re going to the same destination. It’s important to have a clear idea of who you’re following and where you’re going. It can seem great to follow that BMW all the way home, but he’ll probably get creeped out when you pull into his driveway. Following implies relationship, not just blind obedience. And following the wrong person could lead to danger. Jesus talks about this in John 10:4-5: "After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”
3. If You Get Too Far Behind, You Might Forget You Were Following.
There’s kind of sweet spot when you’re driving a mountain road, just before you go around a corner perhaps, when you have the feeling that you’re the only one out there and the world is yours. But fall too far behind, and you could miss an important turn.
In our quest for independence and individuality, let’s not start deceiving ourselves that we are leading when we are meant to follow. Selfishness is a major obstacle to following. Is it any wonder Jesus’ stipulation for followers is that they must be willing to die to self? There is a quiet security that comes from truly knowing the one you follow, and that brings so much more freedom than our own insistence on going our own way ever will. Following does require sacrifice, but what we gain is so much greater.
Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me. //JOHN 12:24
4. Following Doesn’t Mean Turning Off Your Brain.
With all this talk of sheep and following, there is a danger here, and I know that it’s a real problem for many. God gave us free will for a reason. In life, we may sometimes think all we need to do is let “Jesus take the wheel.” But in many ways, this is not the case. I’m in charge of my own vehicle at all times, and even though I’m relying on a leader to point me in the right direction, I still need to be fully present in order to respond to things as they happen in real time on the road. There might be a passing car, a branch on the road, or a bus taking a wide corner. Hopefully I’ve trained my reflexes through experience to deal with whatever happens on the road so that I can continue on the right path.
In actuality this looks a lot like cultivating helpful habits through the rhythms of life so that your faith isn’t shaken when something bad or unexpected happens. Hopefully this also means not being thrown off by every fork in the road. Being a follower doesn’t mean being docile. In fact, it should instill you with confidence.
5. You Can Still Be A Leader Even When You’re Following Someone Else.
On my most recent drive, there were four vehicles who switched between first and last place throughout the day. In many ways it’s easiest to be the last one. Someone else can set the pace, make the decisions about where to stop, and choose which routes to take. But as I mentioned above that doesn’t mean we have to be passive. Others around may still be looking to our example.
Being a follower of Jesus in particular, should make us into even better leaders as we learn from his example. When we look at how he interacted with others, we can see so many valuable lessons about strength within humility. When some followers chose to leave him, Jesus was disappointed, but it didn’t shake his assurance of his own mission, or his sense of self. Often when Jesus asked his disciples to follow him, he was offering them purpose and giving them key roles in declaring the kingdom of God to others. It was anything but passive. It required them to leave something, and to embrace a future that was unknown. But they trusted Jesus, and they saw that the cause was worth it, and that their leader would never ask them to do something he himself wasn’t willing to do. He spent three years investing himself in them so that they would go on to be the kind of leaders who changed the world. If following Jesus doesn’t turn me into a leader, how can I expect to lead anyone to Him? Personally, it’s a journey that I’m truly thankful to be on.
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