What a strange word. A religious word, a word for church-goers, a biblical word to be used for all manner of things. A word hard to get to in any real way, ideas of what it means bandied about like so many ping pong balls. On the other hand, people experience the core of the idea on a regular basis, the most natural thing in the world.
At the core, to be a disciple is to respond to an inner call that says, “I want to be like that.”
However, the gap is huge between desire, intention, and transforming action. We are people of the moment, responding to the impulse of the “now”, unwilling to deny ourselves anything to have the perceived need of the moment. There are thousand things we see and declare, “I want to be like that.”
But sometimes things capture us, capture the deepest part of our hearts. We begin to say “no” to this or that–food, certain acquaintances, old habits, ancient temptations, weekly appointments–all so we can begin to re-align ourselves to become “like that.” Maybe its so that we emulate the positive folk of the world, or to integrate thinking the thoughts of “the rich” so we can be rich, too. Or we learn to say the kinds of things people say when they are effective with women or men. We arrange constantly as a culture, flitting back and forth between all the “like thats” we want to be.
To be like Jesus. To be his disciple. To watch not only what he says, but what he does and how he does it. To watch for his action in the life of the men and women around me, and when I recognize it, to imitate and implement that pattern of action. To connect and interact as he did, as he demonstrated in the gospels. To be transformed, the old man both buried and gone, but also raising his head over and over, like the whack-a-mole that just won’t give up. The action of disciple-being is raising the mallet and whacking the old man again, over time watching him erode and fade as the new man rises, becomes more and more solid over time.
Self-denial. I wish I didn’t understand this. One of God’s graces in my life lately has been to make this more and more plain. Frankly, it is not terribly ambiguous. I want, I give up. I want, I release the want. I crave and weep when I don’t have, and I lay that down. Why would God give me this deep thing (plug in whatever you want) and then ask me to give it up? Surely it can’t be true.
Of course it can. The world is not what we think. Life is not what we think. Could Jesus have said it any more plainly?
He who wants to save his life will lose it. He who loses his life for my sake will find it.
The crushing blow of freedom.
Sounds muscular, sounds not as friendly as we’d like, sounds costly.
Am I a disciple of the Christ?