There are so many directions in which to go when reflecting on today’s readings.
Accepting the call – God’s call – and to follow Him.
Finding freedom – using our free will – but using that freedom to do Christ’s work.
Following Jesus – wholeheartedly – and with total abandonment to the things you leave behind, knowing that He will provide for you.
Too often though, we don’t accept God’s calling and we don’t act. Too often, we abuse our freedom to choose, and we choose the wrong things to love. And too often, we say we want to follow Jesus, but we straddle that fence, and we don’t completely hop off and leave the comfort of that fence behind. We don’t fully commit.
And surely there are many more lessons to be learned from the readings today…
So where do I go? Where do I focus? Well, I’ve got a personal story that touches on this that I’d like to share.
In a couple weeks, my wife and I will be celebrating our 16th wedding anniversary. For 11 of those years, we accumulated some significant debt through credit cards, installment loans and the like – a debt amounting almost to another home mortgage. Monthly payments equaled almost another house payment. We tried to live a life we didn’t have the capital to support.
It got to a point where it almost was hard to breathe. I mention all this to set the stage for the situation that we were in. Something had to give. But we looked at each other, and we realized that we had to do something.
So I finally agreed with my wife and together, we followed the promptings of the Holy Spirit and started Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University program. Dave’s program is built on Christ and centered on the financial lessons obtained from Scripture. God was calling us to this program for a while. We finally accepted and answered the call.
Together we realized that while we had a good income, we were not using that freedom wisely. We were choosing to do what we wanted, taking the easy road, buying things for ourselves and our desires, not saving, and not giving. We had nothing to save or to give.
We were doing what we wanted to with our money, rather than what we should be doing, and we became enslaved to our poor decisions and instant gratification.
And then finally, we got to the big day, the part of the program where we cut up all our credit cards. But what if there was an emergency? You don’t realize just how tied to those things you get, just how enslaved you are until you have to cut them up. This is the point where we were being asked to follow, and we had to make the choice – cut these cards up and move on with the program? Or, remained enslaved to them, always holding on, looking back, thinking we need them for a rainy day, not wanting to let go.
We cut them up, and we followed God. It was scary. What if something happened? But we did it anyway because we had nowhere else to turn. We followed the program, building discipline, and put our trust in Christ knowing that He would provide. We didn’t know how, but we trusted in Him all the way.
We didn’t look back. We were all-in.
I tell you this story, because 5 years later, this debt is completely paid off. We are debt free. I’m not mentioning this to brag, or for a pat on the back. Because the only thing we did was make a choice. We chose to cut up those cards, and follow Jesus, trusting in Him that some how, some way, he would provide. We could not do it on our own. We weren’t making any more money. I went through a career change in the middle adding more stress to the situation. We had no means to pay this debt off and we had every reason to sink deeper in trouble.
The only thing we did was make a choice to cut up those cards, and stop spending. God handled the rest. We put our complete faith into Him, and never looked back. This is the one, concrete example in my life where I can completely relate with a lesson in Scripture, and say, yep – that’s the real deal. I experienced it.
Of course I believe in it all, though much in Scripture is hard to realize or envision – but in looking at the readings today and the lessons to be learned – I can truly say that my wife and I truly experienced this. We did it through making a single choice to accept the situation and follow the calling of the Holy Spirit, and God showed us how to use our freedom wisely, and then through prayer and His special graces, He granted us freedom.
Now our challenge is to continue to use our freedom wisely and do the things we should – not what we want. It’s still a constant struggle.
This is what Christ is asking of us today though, in the three readings – to accept His call, to seek freedom through Him, no matter what is oppressing us, and to fully commit to Him and let go of those things holding us back.
I know anything is possible through Him, because He helped my family and I through an impossible situation. There are surely others. There will surely be many more in the future, but He proved to me through this experience that He truly can free us from anything afflicting us – if we simply make the choice and surrender to Him with our whole heart, and we say to Him, “I’m all-in”, and believe.
And so this is a lesson from the readings today. All of us – all of you reading – have things in life binding you down from following Christ. You hear His words, “come follow Me”, all the time. You know what’s right, and what you should be doing, but just like in my story, we too often do what we want to do, the things we think will make us happy.
Maybe it’s an addiction. Maybe its seeking happiness in material things. Maybe it’s in trying to bring others down around us, because we think it will make ourselves feel better. It may seem hopeless. It may seem impossible. Jesus is asking you to follow Him, but it’s a little scary. What if?
Trust me – just make the choice. Surrender and make the choice, and pray. Pray to Him to show you how, to show you the way out. To provide that freedom. Pray that He shows you how to use that freedom. And then let go.
Let go of those things that hold you down, that keep you from following. Cut up those cards. Delete that app. Let go of the anger. Pick up that Bible. Put Jesus first. Pray for His guidance.
Be all-in to His program, the one He wrote two millennia ago…
And then get out of the way, and let Him do His work.