Following Jesus is the Farthest thing from an “Amazing Race”
More and more people I meet and interact with about their spiritual life echo a similar feeling, a regular and even constant sense of “running” or “never living up” to their concept of what faith is.
Expectations on themselves have come from any number of places, but the common sentiment seems to be one of exhaustion and even a questioning of their faith and their identity as Christians.
I can relate, I know that I have often felt guilt about not doing something I believe that I “should” do or that is clearly outlined in the bible. Whether it’s sin or a list of to-do’s that I have made as a result of the many voices telling me what active faith should look like.
Realistically, it’s overwhelming!
I know, this isn’t a very new reality or profound statement, many speakers and teachers, including myself, have pointed out the fact that faith is a journey. Although helpful to a degree, the feelings of guilt and continual failure don’t stop.
It reminded me of a popular reality-TV series called The Amazing Race. To be honest, I have only seen a couple of episodes; it’s not really my kind of show, but if you haven’t watched it, the premise is that there are a bunch of teams competing in a race that goes around the world. They wake up to instructions and after they complete one task, they are handed their next list of instructions and obligations until they reach the end of the line where the host is waiting to tell them if they made it in time or if they are the last team and are therefore disqualified from the race.
I believe that we often see our faith journey with Jesus just like this. We think of our spiritual life like an episode from the Amazing Race, where we get instructions and have to make it to the next station on our own. When we are left to our own talents, skills and self-control, etc., we look at God like He is miles away, sure He sees everything, the camera’s are always on us after all, but He isn’t perceived as being there with us. We are competing to prove ourselves worthy so we don’t get eliminated from the race.
What a horrible picture of faith.
Years ago, while I was still in high school, my Dad took my whole family on a trip to the UK. It had been a dream and a goal of his for a long time and he had saved up enough to get all of us there before I graduated.
I woke up every morning with a sense of anticipation and freedom.
I didn’t wake up to a list of instructions outlining what I would have to do to get to where my Dad would already be waiting. I didn’t have to worry about failing or missing a train or deciphering a code. Why? Because all I had to do was follow my Dad. All I had to do was walk right behind him, knowing that I would always be within arms reach. The list of instructions wasn’t necessary because I was with Him the whole time. If I fell or wandered off, he would notice immediately because he was walking close enough to me to notice.
Before I explain how my trip connects me closely with my walk with Jesus, I want to make sure you don’t hear me saying that God’s word and daily instructions aren’t important. Quite the opposite.
On our trip I knew the foundation of expectations. I knew that I had to keep my eyes on him and keep pace as much as possible. I knew what country we were in and what hotel I was staying at. I knew the possible dangers in the different areas we visited, etc. In the same way, we still need God’s word for the foundation and direction. God’s word helps orient us again – it is vital to keep reading it daily for us to gain our foundation and direction for the day. My point is, we aren’t left alone with those instructions- God is walking right beside us every moment of every day.
Here are three things that really impacted me and speak to how following Jesus should look.
- Safety/trust: My Dad had planned everything and I trusted him. I wasn’t afraid that I would get stuck somewhere or have a place to go that we would have no way to get to. I also knew we would be able to get home when it was time.
God is always our ultimate security and with Him in charge we are safe He is always good and trustworthy and has our best interests in mind.
- Opinion: I was allowed to share my opinion. There were points in the trip where we had options. I was allowed to share my thoughts and preferences about things like what castles to go see, etc.
God is interested in us and our desires. When Scripture tells us he will give us the desires of our heart, those desires are the desires that GOD has for us. When we are walking close to Him we can see and hear His heart’s longing for us and we see that we won’t be happy without those things, after all that’s what we were created for.
- Freedom: I had incredible freedom in following. The relief of not performing or proving myself worthy frees me to enjoy my experiences and my relationship with my Dad.
This is how following Jesus is supposed to be. Yes, there are hurdles, it’s hard work because it’s easy to lose focus and find ourselves distracted by the world and what it tells us is good or fun, but it’s a lot less difficult when we’re holding the hand of Jesus, when we can hear his voice and see his eyes – the world quickly fades away.
Imagine how much less stress the teams in the “Amazing Race” would feel if they had the author of the adventure walking with them and explaining the expectations of the next task- helping them through each one. Sure, it wouldn’t make for as much Drama on TV but I’m not looking for more drama in my life- just a loving Father who wants to be in relationship with me, and who puts that relationship above expectations and perfection.
May you find the peace, joy and fulfillment of following Jesus and as you do, the standards of His word and guiding instructions for life won’t seem unattainable or daunting, but a natural part of your relationship with Him.