Sunday, June 7, 2009

Following the Leader

I have a favorite "bloggist" (as Miss Heidi puts it) named Jessica. The first time I ever read one of her posts, here, I dubbed her a kindred spirit. I was in awe of her insights...and her ability to express them. She has an artist’s soul. She runs deep. And her writing is often like poetry. Rich and spare at the same time.

Jessica’s profile used to describe her and her husband as “Christ-followers.” I loved that term. And I loved that she declared it so unabashedly. (Another friend I would readily label as a "Christ-follower" is Heather of the EO. That lady has a heart of pure gold, and an easy, everyday way of describing her faith and her journey.) Reading Jessica’s profile gave me pause. I wondered at my own inability to label myself a “Christ-follower”. (Which is basically just a friendlier, more everyday term for “disciple.”)

I use other labels for myself all the time. I know I’m a mom. That’s a given. It comes with the territory. It defines my job and my heart in a single syllable. I have no problem calling myself an artist. It’s not just what I do for a living, it’s Who I Am. I also might refer to myself as a pianist (or at least an accompanist). I wouldn't be caught dead calling myself anything but an alto in the choir (I identify so strongly with that label, I would never defect to the soprano section!) I’ve often been called a teacher, and even "professor" by my students. The very act of blogging shows I’m willing, on some level, to call myself a writer. Clearly I’m comfortable with a handful of labels. So why has it never occurred to me to call myself a Christ-follower?

I definitely love the Lord. I have absolute faith in his loving, saving power. And I try to follow along. But in all my following, I fall short. All the time. I never seem to think I’m quite good enough yet.

Still, I promised to take his name when I was baptized. And I keep on promising nearly every week when I take the sacrament -- the very sacrament He instituted over 2000 years ago. For a year and a half I even wore a missionary badge that said I represented Him. So what is my hang-up? Why don’t I think of and describe myself first and foremost as a Christ-follower?

Well, a while ago I was preparing a talk and was guided back to this favorite passage of scripture:
“Wherefore...pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ...” (Moroni 7:48)

So there’s some kind of amazing love that is characteristic of all genuine Christ-followers. If you read back one verse he tells you just what that love is:
“But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever;” (Moroni 7:47)

Okay, this makes perfect sense. Because Christ himself said, “By this shall all men know ye are my disciples: If ye have love one to another.(John 13:35, italics added.)

So it’s not our callings, our titles, or our labels that define us as Christ-followers. It’s our LOVE.

Love? I can do. And need to do better.

Now, that love is a sticky thing.
Because, you see, it requires our obedience:
“If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

And I think to myself, I can’t do that. I can try. But I know I’ll fail. —Don’t worry, I’m not planning on breaking any BIG ONES. I’m not planning on breaking any at all. But, like I said earlier, I fall short. All the time.

The cool thing here is that there’s an escape hatch...
and it’s Love.

“Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much:” (Luke 7:47)

At least I know where I need to focus my energy and my prayers. Because I do want to be filled-to-overflowing with love that is self-renewing, and as ever-giving as it is ever-lasting, as pure as it is powerful. Simple, sanctifying, saving. I want to be a Christ-follower. Even if that label only ever shows on the inside.

But I have a hunch that if my heart becomes reshaped, softened, pure...I’ll be more comfortable using that label. Not so much as a descriptor of me, but as a reflection of His love.

But I’m also beginning to wonder if I did start referring to myself as a Christ-follower, if it would propel me to greater heights, and greater love, simply by the power of suggestion. You know, change me from the outside in. I’m still not quite ready to write it up there on my profile. But I think I’m ready to engrave it on my heart.


Gunfighter said...

Never mind titles and labels, my friend. You are already a follower of Christ. No need to worry about the name tag.

We all fall short.

You can't help it. Neither can I... it's the effort. It's the struggle,. It's the repentance. It's the love.

Sandy M. said...

At the back and at the base of everything else I am, I know that I am a daughter.

I love that the gospel does not ever put us in competition with one another, but instead gives us daily opportunities to help one another along. I am a sister too.

I've been told that the base of the word 'courage' is from the old french word 'coeur', meaning love. I've always liked that. As my love grows, so grows my courage.

Melanie J said...

I really like this. I wonder sometimes at my reluctance to go into spiritual stuff on my blog. I do it now and then, but I think I just don't spend a lot of time wading in those waters for different reasons. It's probably because for every day I have of sure faith, I have five where I'm struggling to believe in even the most basic things. At those times I cling to the fact that whatever may or may not be true, the actions fueled by the principles I've been taught (telling the truth, being kind to others, treating my husband well) are correct and good and so I keep putting one foot in front of the other and then I have a day where I believe with all my heart again.

Thanks, as always, for sharing this.

Kristina P. said...

I appreciate you sharing this, Jana. You always speak so eloquently.

Kimberly said...

What is truly beautiful about this post is how you've taken your love and used it to inspire others. You already are beautiful and loving, inside and out. I don't think you fall half so short as you think you do.

Heather of the EO said...

What Kimberly said.

I fall short all the time too, lady. And sometimes I just get plain old lazy, figuring I'll never "measure up." I think we learn that more from each other than from Jesus though, you know? Our human understanding is so limited, but when we let the Spirit fall fresh on our ears, you're's all about love.

Thank you for calling me a Christ-follower. That's really what I want to be.

I mentioned how your blog can make me cry (in a good way) today on my blog. And sure enough, you've done it again. When you share your heart (like you always do), I'm moved because I feel so understood. I just love that kindred spirit thing. And I love YOU!

Brillig said...

Gorgeous, thoughtful, beautiful, inspiring post. I'm just not sure I can add more than that.

(Irreverently, though, I have to comment on your line about being an alto: A-freaking-men. I'm SO an alto, and even if my range were to suddenly extend and I were a lyric soprano, I would stay in the alto section. It's my home. It's my appropriate label. haha)

Allison said...

Beautiful post. Mind if I quote some of it for a future sacrament meeting talk?

L.T. Elliot said...

"Love, I can do."

Me too. And I think that's the best thing one can do.

Love, I can do.