Discipleship is progressive, not stationary

It’s dynamic, not static.  Kinesthetic, not latent.  Active, not passive.  The path of discipleship is a continuous journey of moving progressively forward – from one point to the next – not haphazardly, but purposefully – following the leadership of Jesus’ Spirit – step, by step, by step, by step.

Following Jesus is not formulaic, so as to reduce God down to some cosmic algebra equation (discern the correct variables; achieve the desired outcome).  Yet, the steps along the journey of discipleship are not an unknowable mystery to us either.

I was a part of an awesome teen-mentoring ministry for 17 years called Teen Advisors.  I loved the name of their our middle school program for its depth of meaning: Velocity.  Velocity is a term from Physics.  It means “the rate of speed that an object in motion travels away from its starting position”.

We played two games with each new set of kids to help them visualize the meaning of Velocity:

First, we would play Dizzy-Lizzy: a relay race where team members run up from their starting position, grab a plastic bat, run in 5 circles around the bat, then run back to their team.  A tremendous display of speed and motion, indeed!  But by the end of the game, the entire team was right back where they had started from.

Then, we would play Red Light, Green Light – a game where you begin at the starting line, and then race to the finish line, being careful to obey the “traffic signals” on your way!  Start, stop, go slow, start again… but always making forward progress.

The life of the disciple is marked by velocity.  Not speed, but progressive forward motion.  It doesn’t have to be fast; in fact, at times, it can be quite slow.  But even the sea turtle clunking its way toward the ocean from its nest is still achieving velocity with each new stride.  Albeit slowly, the turtle is progressively moving further away from its starting position – and closer towards its goal.

I have seen many students, peers, dear friends – even faithful Christians – stymy in their discipleship journey, simply because they would not take the next step forward.

Here are a few common scenarios where I have observed this:

  • The elated feelings from a mountain top experience wear off and give way to the mundanity of everyday life…
  • That spiritual exercise that used to bring so much pleasure and fulfillment loses its pizzazz…
  • You are faced with a decision between two equally good options (colleges, jobs, neighborhoods, BBQ restaurants, whatever…).  So, rather than risk making the “wrong” choice (which is impossible – I’ll explain why in a later post), you just stop moving altogether.  This invisible “third option” – to simply not decide – is what so many default to in these situations.  It’s actually the only wrong choice you can make!  Your forward progress halts, and you’re stuck…
  • A well-known Christian leader or personal mentor falls prey to some shameful sin, and you allow their failure to atrophy your growth…
  • You suffer a personal tragedy, or you see a tragic event in the news that sticks to your spiritual feet like concrete, and you find that you are no longer able to move forward in your spiritual journey…
  • Someone with a PhD after their name asks you a [loaded] theological question that your old VBS answers can no longer satisfy, causing you to irrationally question everything you’ve ever believed…
  • Your best friend begins compromising their long-held Christian values, and as a result, you find yourself beginning to waffle in your own moral standards…

In all of these situations and countless others, your physical life goes on.  Your circumstances, friendships, experiences – they all continue, and life keeps moving forward.  This gives the illusion that you are continuing to move forward spiritually as well…

But in reality, you may have gotten stuck in last summer, last year, or 15 years ago.  In your spirit, you are still at that impasse you came to when you were 15 or 19 or 28 or whenever.

Go back to that place and shake off the shackles.  Ever-faithful Jesus is with you where you are now (He never left your side); He is also waiting for you back there, back where your spiritual progress halted.

Be free in Jesus’ Name, and get to steppin’!  He beckons you forward with Him.  He never stopped beckoning.  Ever the Gentleman, He is ready to pick up right where you left off.  He’s excited about it!  He can hardly wait!  He is SO thrilled to have you continue on this journey with Him.

Take His hand… or reach out and grab the train of His robe.  Now begin to lift up your foot, and flex the front of the spiritual quadriceps to pull your leg forward…  Tiny progress – one small step at a time – just inches – even millimeters forward is progress!

Are you stuck?  Is your discipleship journey stymied?  What caused it?  Are you willing to go with Jesus back to that place, to take His hand and continue forward, even without having all the answers?  (I know these are deeply personal questions.  You are always  free to respond to my posts anonymously.  I want your honest, transparent input!  Sometimes it’s easier to be real when you can remain anonymous, which is totally fine with me.)

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