You Follow Me
- 2009 4 Jun
After graduating from college in North Carolina, I spent several years living in Colorado before enrolling in classes at a Bible college in Florida. While I found the lessons inspiring and spiritually challenging, some of the conversations with other students made me tilt my head sideways in bewilderment.
It wasn’t uncommon for someone to walk up and ask, “What is God’s calling on your life?” The question always made me feel like tourist without a map.
After stammering for a few moments without any real reply, I’d turn the question around on the interrogator, “What’s God’s calling on your life?”
Without hesitation, the person would tell me they were going to be a lead pastor, worship leader, or launch a ministry. I was intrigued and impressed. The responses that left me the most bewildered were from young women who proclaimed that God had called them to be a pastor’s wife.
“Wow, that’s awesome!” I’d reply. “Who’s the lucky guy?”
“I’m not dating anyone, but I know God will bring the one.”
“That’s great,” I’d affirm, secretly wondering what the young woman was going to do if God tarried.
To this day, I still don’t know whether the cause was the demographics of the student population or the culture of the campus, but it seemed like God had spoken to almost everyone I met on one or both of two main issues: who they were going to marry and the worldwide ministry they were called to launch. I don’t remember anyone who ever felt like God called them to singleness or to simply serve in the local church without an impressive job title.
God had never spoken to me specifically about marriage or ministry, so I felt out of the loop. Maybe I wasn’t praying hard enough. Maybe I wasn’t listening long enough. Maybe God was calling me to something completely different, and my dream job of working as a quality control taster at Godiva was still in his plan.
Living in a God-speaks-greatness-into-everyone environment can lead to a lot of self-doubt when God isn’t speaking to you. I began to wonder, God, have you forgotten me? Do you still have a plan for me? Am I doing something I shouldn’t be doing or not doing something that I should? I felt confused and misplaced.
That’s when I was introduced to one of those foundational passages that keeps me from playing hooky in my relationship with God. It’s been like a spiritual anchor for me—an ancient crusty truth that sinks hard and fast into my soul. As I prayed about my internal turmoil one morning, I was introduced to John 21, a section of scripture I had read many times before but never the same way. The passage describes a memorable breakfast on the beach with the already-resurrected Jesus and his followers. Simon Peter and his friends are fishing when a familiar voice yells out to them to place their nets on the other side of the boat. Against their better judgment, they follow the advice of the landlocked man and find their nets snapping under the weighty catch. In the midst of the excitement, Simon Peter is informed that the stranger is Jesus. Throwing on a shirt, he belly flops into the water and swims to shore as fast as he can.
When the water finally grows shallow enough for his feet to touch, Simon Peter sees Jesus standing near a beachside fire. The unmistakable smell of smoke, charred fish, and fresh, baked bread fill the air. This is not an ordinary breakfast, but an encounter that changes one disciple forever and echoes truths into my heart thousands of years later.
Now this was Simon Peter’s day. This passionate young disciple had already experienced the highs and lows of three years of ministry with Jesus. He witnessed miracles that shattered his own paradigm of what was really possible with God. He watched firsthand as blind eyes saw their first sights, deaf ears heard their first words, and the crippled took their first steps. He experienced the high of walking on water and the low of denying the man he loved more than anything.
Jesus prophetically warns the follower that “truly, truly” there will come a day “when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go. Follow me (John 21:18-19)”. Though the words penetrate Simon Peter’s mind, they do not pierce his heart. He doesn’t want them to. Who would? Peter looks anywhere and everywhere for an escape. He finds one among the impromptu breakfast crowd. “Lord, and what about this man?” he asks.
“If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?” Jesus asks pointedly.
Then Jesus echoes the command, "You follow Me!"
Through that passage, God was speaking to me and anchoring me in the truth that above all else the greatest calling on my life was not my marital status or ministry but simply to follow him. My calling is to press my face into the shoulder blades of Jesus so that wherever he leads I will go.
You follow me.
Those words have become a holy reverb in my soul. That’s often what happens when God speaks. The sacred echo reverberates inside of us long after the words are spoken.
Though that morning was the first time God spoke those words to me, it was far from the last.
You follow me.
Those words have become a sacred echo, an ongoing reminder from God of my simple calling. Years later, those are probably three of the most common words that reverberate in my heart from God.
That’s one reason I find spending time in scripture so important. The Bible is not to be seen as a single volume as much as a rich library for God’s children. As I spend time in his word, studying the people, places, and passages, I expand the resources that the Holy Spirit can draw from in my life. When I feel completely out of control and begin to doubt that God has any control, the Holy Spirit impregnates my mind with the truth from Jeremiah 29:11 that indeed, God does not just have a plan but a future. When I am tempted to hold a grudge against someone and allow the anger to get the best of my heart, mind, and mouth, Ephesians 4:26 flashes a basic life principle: Don’t wait—forgive today. And when I feel empty on the inside, a million miles from God, I remember the simple invitation of John 10:10 that Jesus has come that we may have life and have it to the full. And when I find myself doubting and questioning everything in my future, I am reminded of the simple truth: Remember, Margaret. You follow me.
Adapted from The Sacred Echo by MARGARET FEINBERG (www.margaretfeinberg.com). Copyright © 2008 by Margaret Feinberg (www.margaretfeinberg.com) . Used by permission of Zondervan. Margaret can be reached at Margaret@margaretfeinberg.com. Join her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mafeinberg.
**This excerpt first published on June 4, 2009.