Today’s reading from Luke 5, spoke to my heart. In it, Jesus called a tax collector called Levi. He said very simply, “Follow me.” This speaks to my heart because I was like Levi, a sinner. I had strayed off of the path of what I had been taught as a child because of many reasons including:
- Everyone’s doing it and if I don’t, I’ll be weird
- If you love me, you’ll do it
- My parents just don’t get it and don’t understand me
- My parents are totally out of touch and just can’t understand
- The Church is just a bunch of rules which are designed to spoil all the fun
- Wouldn’t Jesus want me to be happy rather than be miserable
- I’m really not a bad person compared to others, so this little thing won’t matter
- My parents are the strictest parents around. They are totally unreasonable!
- I don’t really know what the Church teaches, so it doesn’t really matter.
If I sat here long enough and thought through a few more ‘situations’ I got myself into, I could probably come up with a lot more. But, I think you get the point.
When Jesus called me (and I will never forget the moment I realized and fully heard the call), I did my best to let go of the old life and begin anew. It wasn’t easy and I wasn’t perfect. But, I can look back and see that there is a definite turning point in my life.
I imagine that it was much the same way for those called by Jesus that the Bible tells us about including Levi. The reality is that I “thought” I was happy in that earlier life. I won’t say that I was an atheist, for I did believe in God, but I really had no idea who or what God was and didn’t really try to find out. It was easier not to and I was happy, right? So, why would I want something that would impose RULES on me when as a young adult, I was finally breaking free from all those rules I had been buried under as a child?
Twenty-six years later, I can say that those RULES that I had avoided for so long and didn’t want in my life, have saved my life more times than I could count. Those RULES have brought true happiness in a way that I never understood when I was avoiding the rules. I realize that the rationalizations that I was saying to myself left and right were really just a smoke screen blinding me to the truth. It is sad to say that as a youth minister, I see teens daily saying the same old rationalizations now that I did then and blinding themselves just as much as I did.
But, I have learned one thing. I CAN be there for them and I CAN live my life openly, full of faith and courage in Christ, and witnessing to the good that my faith has brought to my life. But, I can’t call them. That is for Jesus to do. I just hope to be there to help guide them when He does as others guided me.