When I was in 3rd grade, my friends and I played follow-the-leader. We would traipse through the house in a line following whoever was in front and mimicking every movement they did. We march through the kitchen, around tables and even over furniture, much to my mothers’ dismay, and consequently we would march out the door. The half-acre yard I lived on was even greater marching grounds. We marched around the many trees, shrubs, and flowers, around the swing set and lawn chairs, through our garden and my sand box all the time doing whatever the leader did: jump, run, walk like a duck, sing, spin or dance. We never felt lost, but we never knew where we would go next nor what we would be doing.
Nowadays, I am very dependent on following. What I mean is, I have no sense of direction. North is the front end of my car. Seriously! And without a map or good directions I easily get lost. I often drive around until I see a familiar landmark before I can get my bearings and get to my destination. And try as I might, I have never been able to overcome this directional handicap. I now plan my trips, even the ones across town, ahead of time. I think through the route I will take, and the turns I will make, and use a good map or googled directions.
Life is a journey. And we all are ‘following’ someone or something, doing what they do or following their directions. At times I even catch myself following myself! Now that’s a scary thought! But I do! I decide to eat wrong and follow myself to McDonalds. I decide to procrastinate and follow myself to the computer to Facebook instead of cleaning the kitchen. I decide to stay up late reading one more chapter or playing one more game and follow myself into a morning of grouchy coffee-drinking. Or I follow my haphazard, shoddy or uncaring attitude and literally run over friends and family with my opinions, looks, or actions. But even worse, I follow others in conversations of negative talking or gossip. Or worse yet, I LEAD them! Sometime I even follow my feelings, as silly as they are, and let them lead me into anger, resentment or depression.
Life is a journey. And if I am to become the person God made me to be, I must be very careful who or what I follow. One of the ministers at my church gave an illustration of what it was like to follow Jesus. Jason called a ‘volunteer’ from the congregation and asked them to follow him and do everything he did. He walked across the stage, down the steps, and proceeded to traipse around the auditorium (sound familiar?) and all the time the volunteer followed, not distantly, because he never knew which direction Jason would take at any given moment, but he followed as closely as he could so as not to miss a step or a turn. Jason had that person’s full attention but it really was a simple concept. The volunteer had just one job: Follow.
Becoming a disciple of Christ is a lifelong commitment to Following the Leader. I choose every day, every moment, whether to step where He steps, say what He says, act like He acts, or do what He does. It’s not hard to play follow the leader as long as I have my eyes ON the leader and DECIDE to follow. When I decide to follow, He even gives me HIS strength, ability and power to do it! Where it gets hard is looking around and fearing where He is leading: You mean I am going to forgive unfaithfulness? lying? abuse? Follow the Leader. He did it. You mean I have to endure pain and suffering? Follow the Leader. He did it. You mean I have to put up with ridicule and snarky attitudes? Follow the Leader. He did it. You mean I shouldn’t put up with gossip and negative talk? Follow the Leader. He didn’t.
Unlike the aimless game of Follow the Leader I played as a child, following Jesus has purpose. A purpose the world cannot give. I get to follow the Leader through overcoming all of those negatives to ultimately arrive at glorious high places, places of joy and peace, because my Spirit-infused life will grow strong enough to get there. These places are high above the problems of the world, and there I find a perspective that makes the following worth every step. I become strong enough to humbly and patiently forgive even the wrongest wrongs. I followed the Leader. He did that. I become strong enough to have joy in the middle of pain and suffering. I followed the Leader. He did that. I become strong enough to love my enemies. I followed the Leader. He did that. I become strong enough to stand up for justice and do good. I followed the Leader. He did that. I become kind, gentle, self-controlled just like Him, because I followed Him.
By the way, I am still on this journey. But I’m getting to be in those high places occasionally and it is so wonderful and worth it! Oh, and remember I have no sense of direction. I consult the road map constantly to make sure I am following closely. Studying the Word is my life GPS. But following Jesus is my simple job.
Wanna join me in Following the Leader?