The scene: a guided imaginative contemplation on the story of Jesus calling his first disciples. You picture yourself in the scene, using all your senses, as Jesus comes along the shoreline to call Peter and Andrew, then James and John. I put myself in the story as a hired hand in their boat, fixing the nets.
When Jesus came to call James and John, I wasn’t sure if the invitation was directed at all of us or just them – someone special. It seemed to be general, but then only they left – so I assume that was the way it was meant to be. In any case, I surely wasn’t allowed – I had my job, I needed to earn my keep. The moment took me back to listening to ‘altar call’ sermons as a young person – never sure if I was the one meant to go forward, and in any case too scared to do so. It’s a powerful sense of stuckness that I’ve experienced far too many times in my life.
Then, the person leading the exercise suggested we imagine Jesus coming over to stand by us. What does he say? What do you say to him? I said, “What do you want me to do for you?”, my tone imploring, and not a little frustrated. I didn’t get if he wanted me to stay or go. When asked to imagine his response, all I could do was imagine him looking at me, in my eyes, and saying “It’s your call.”
(Only later, as I reflected on the experience, did I realise what a stunning pun this was.)
And only now am I beginning to recognise a pattern.
Last year my mission was to lose control of my life. Or at least to give up the illusion that I had it under my control. Or, still more accurately, to give up the illusion that I could have it under my control if I only pulled my finger out and did something about it.
The primary way I gave up control of my life was becoming a father. It was a tough journey in the early stages and shared this with the contemplation exercise above: every time I tried to “give up control”, to ask God what he wanted me to do, the ‘reply’ – such as I could perceive it – came back: “It’s your call.”
And this is the pattern. That the more I seek to cede control of my life to God, the more I perceive God ‘saying’, “You are free. You get on with it.”
A very Christian paradox, which now begins to sound very familiar, as I realise I may finally be beginning to taste a truth that millions before have realised.
I need to remember, too, that the ‘getting on with it’ has to be, as the leader of our contemplation exercise said, not asking, “What am I meant to do?” but “Who am I meant to be?”
Give up control, gain freedom.
You are not the God we would have chosen
had we done the choosing,
but we are your people
and you have chosen us in freedom.
We pray for the great gift of freedom
that we may be free toward you
as you are in your world.
Give us that gift of freedom
that we may move in new places
in obedience and in gratitude.
Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth p87