Well, what a month it has been since we last chatted… I am now the proud father of a beautiful baby girl called Imogen, and I can safely say that it has been the most emotionally diverse month of my life. Between the anticipation of the birth, watching my wife go through labour and now getting used to life back at home, it has been full of highs but has also seen its fair share of stresses and strains.
For example, as I write this, it’s pretty late at night and the only way I’ve found to chill my 2-week-old daughter out is to lay her across my lap and stroke her back. So far it’s working (!!) but when I tried to put her into her bed she kicked off again, so we’re back to the same position waiting for her to fall asleep.
It’s a situation that I have no real experience of and I’m just finding my way through it; trying to figure out what works…It can be hard when you’re faced with a situation and you’re not really sure what the right/best thing to do is.
This is true for all of us for all sorts of things in life isn’t it?
From school exam choices to university courses; from relationships to gap year decisions; from peer pressure to wanting to follow Jesus…we all have to figure stuff out.
It’s a good job discipleship isn’t like that, eh…?!
Well, let’s have a read of this passage in Mark: Here are the disciples fresh from their exploits having been sent out in pairs:
“The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.
Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them,
“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:30-31 NIV)
Sounds great. Some down time with Jesus. Just what they needed…
But then more and more people start to recognise them and started to follow them wherever they went to relax until Jesus ‘had compassion on them’ and started to teach the crowd. Ok, so the downtime wasn’t really happening but then the disciples realise something:
“This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late.
Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside
and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” (Mark 6:35-36 NIV)
What’s Jesus’s response?
“You give them something to eat.” (v37)
“They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages!
Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
Jesus doesn’t let them off the hook with that whinging though:
“‘How many loaves do you have?‘ he asked. ‘Go and see.‘” (v38)
We know what happens next don’t we…
When I read this exchange recently, it really struck me: Jesus wants the disciples to work this one out for themselves. He wants to raise their expectations of what is possible and tangible in the Kingdom, but the disciples just seem to respond in the way I probably would have – “Don’t be ridiculous Jesus!”
Jesus isn’t being ridiculous, he wants to see the disciples mature in their faith – to grow up a bit. They had just been out in pairs, doing the work of Jesus all over the place. They had seen the most amazing things and shared the gospel with loads of people and yet here we are, quickly back to earth with a bump.
I guess it’s the difference between a short term experience where things were incredible and somehow making the transition into a mature faith that expects to see Jesus accomplishing his work day in and day out, in us and through us. Both episodes saw the disciples fully involved but moving in the power that was Jesus’.
Our journey of discipleship isn’t meant to be a string of short term ‘buzzy’ experiences but a steady day by day maturing into understanding our calling to “go and make disciples” and to step into the unknown or baffling situations we face with an expectation that He’ll be involved – doing what He does – however extraordinary or mundane that may be.
So then, as we mature and become more like Jesus, we get to know what He would do, we hear His voice more clearly and our relationship with Him deepens. We are faced with a situation and we know how Jesus would respond.
As for me – Imogen is now sound asleep on my lap and so my next challenge is how to move her into her crib without waking her up so I might just get some sleep!!!