“We have no home in this world, I used to say, and then I’d walk back up the road to this old place and make myself a pot of coffee and a fried-egg sandwich and listen to the radio, when I got one, in the dark as often as not… I didn’t feel very much at home in the world, that was a fact. Now I do.” Rev. John Ames, Gilead (by Marilynne Robinson)
In Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, the dying pastor John Ames reflects on the comfort he’s found in life, now that—in his seventies—he has a wife and child. He finally has a home. It’s harder to say to those who are dying that “it’s like going home.”
In time, or at times, we all feel attached to the life we know. We get comfortable with our surroundings, our possessions, and above all with the people we love. We come to be at home in this life. We become accustomed to the way we know things. And with age we grow more apprehensive about allowing change in our life.
Our comfort, our safety, our security in knowing what to expect come to rule us. We consider our decisions in light of how much they will jar us from the status quo.
But Jesus issues a challenge:
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
To be a follower of Jesus is to deny ourselves that luxury of hanging on to our own perfectly constructed and safely guarded world. To be a follower of Jesus is, shockingly, to make a decision each day to pick up our cross—to lay it all on the line for Jesus.
It sounds terrifying.
What it is, however, is trust.
Jesus continues: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?” (9:24-25)
The world we’re grasping so tightly—whether it be our status, our financial comfort, the safety we know in our small circle of loved ones, our own preference to be spectators rather than participants in God’s gracious mission to this world in the coming, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ—that world will let us down. The surprise of Jesus’ radical summons is what he says will happen if we give ourselves fully to him: by letting go of our momentary comfort, we are given something much better. In putting our safe little world at his disposal, Jesus wonderfully gives us…our life, our true self, and a fulfillment of our purpose that we can find nowhere else.
Do we trust that he is telling the truth? How will we answer him?