March 9, 2014
Sunday, 8:00 p.m.
Letter #321: Footsteps of Jesus
Discipleship is messy business. The process of guiding a person in the ways of the Lord, encouraging them in heart-change, and helping them develop godly character—all while maintaining your own walk with the Lord in passionate “sonship” with Him—is difficult, time-consuming, frustrating, exhausting, and rewarding. In that order, usually.
I’ve been discipled by some outstanding, godly men, sometimes without even knowing I was being discipled. I’ve been a terrible disciple too. (At this point, John Shepherd just threw his hands up and thanked God: “We just had a breakthrough, God. He admitted failure.”) Praise God for people who poured into me, so that I am who I am today, stronger for their sacrifice.
For some reason, God thought it would be a great idea for me to live out my faith 24/7/365 by giving me a cellie like Joe who wants and needs good old-fashioned discipleship. I’ve agreed to live it out 8/5/229 (Keeping normal working hours, Monday–Friday until the day Joe paroles), but apparently God’s plan includes just a bit of overtime and no vacation days. Since I didn’t exactly have a choice in the matter, I agreed wholeheartedly to help Joe.
But God didn’t need me to help Joe. God is helping Joe just fine without my help. God wanted me to step out of comfortableness and ease and complacency I’d developed over several months of living with a cellie who didn’t care to hear about God, talk about God, or talk to God. I was content to relax in my cell and save the ministry for the times I was teaching or out in the pod. This worked for me, as it fit in nicely with my schedule. Neat and tidy.
Then everything changed. This is not your Weekly Bible Study-type of accountability discipleship. This is not your “let’s get together at Starbuck’s tomorrow morning” type of discipleship, either. And, both of those types are effective, as you walk hand-in-hand with someone through their sanctification process, through their constantly-being-made-into-the-character-of-Christ process.
No, this little discipleship thingy I’ve got going on is quite different. It’s the lock-yourself-in-a-bathroom-together-for-ten-months discipleship method. And let me assure you, dear friend, it is quite effective.
I am being sanctified. I am growing in Christ. I am increasing in my passion and desire for prayer, for reading His Word, for fasting, for committing passages of Scripture to memory, for caring about the spiritual lives of those around me. From the time I wake up until the time I go to bed, the Lord is on my mind and on my lips. (Thank you for those of you who believed I was already like this, and thank you for those of you who figured that I wasn’t and prayed for me, and thank you for those of you who will continue to keep me in prayer as God works on me!)
It is the natural effect of discipleship, really. Just as Jesus could only disciple because of His relationship with His Father, discipleship—that process of walking with a person as they grow in Christ—can only be done effectively as the one discipling is a disciple himself.
I knew all of this, of course. I know a lot of things. I can answer all the questions and say all the right things at just the right time, and I even know when to say nothing at all. But my effectiveness comes solely because of my relationship with the Disciple Maker Himself. I can only say, “Follow me, as I follow Christ” when I am a Christ-follower myself. When I am personally on my knees. When I am personally seeking His face. When I am humbled, broken, emptied.
And this is messy. This is a process, and it takes effort, energy, and heart. This is a 24/7/365 business, my discipleship with my Master, and He has some pretty big shoes to fill.