Leaving and Following


“Peter began to say to him, ‘Look, we have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first’” (Mark 10:28-31).

I read and prayed with this passage during morning prayer recently and it has haunted me since. Because, unlike Peter, I cannot say that I have left everything and followed Jesus. In fact, as I reflected on this, I felt hard pressed to come up with anything that I have sacrificed in order to follow Jesus.

In talking about this with my spiritual director, I came to see that there are some things that I have left behind in order to follow, particularly in the area of challenging relationships. With God’s grace, my will at times has been softened and I have been able to yield to the movement of the Spirit in order to engage in Love with people who I would rather judge critically, argue with, or simply avoid. In these relationships, I have been able to – sometimes – leave behind my desire to shun, my judgmental attitude, and/or my argumentative reaction. My willingness to yield in these relationships springs solely from my desire to follow Jesus.

When it comes to material goods – the “houses…and fields” in the passage from Mark – I can certainly go with fewer things when necessary. But the “necessary” comes from times when we have fewer financial resources. I confess with some shame that there is very little in terms of material comforts that I have willingly left behind in order to follow Jesus. Moreover, when I think about leaving everything and following Jesus, I am aware of my strong resistance. There are some ways in which I have taken baby steps, but they feel so inadequate in the face of the reality of my life. Yet, there is this: “There’s no place else: begin from where you are” (Theodore Roethke, Straw for the Fire).

And where am I? I am in a stew of contradictions. Resistance and willingness. Abundance and lack. Desire and fear. Well, maybe not fear, but perhaps a wariness. The contradictions, I hope, offer openings in which the Holy Spirit might slip in and form me ever more fully into a disciple, a follower of Jesus freed from that which I am asked to leave behind.