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Life as a Spiritual Journey
Life as a Spiritual Journey

Following Jesus Is a Journey

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Brian McLaren points to Jesus’ time in the wilderness as essential to his spiritual journey, one that he invites his disciples to engage in as well:

Jesus needed that time of preparation in the wilderness. He needed to get his mission clear in his own heart so that he wouldn’t be captivated by the expectations of adoring fans or intimidated by the threats of furious critics. If we dare to follow Jesus and proclaim the radical dimensions of God’s good news as he did, we will face the same twin dangers of domestication and intimidation.…

Soon he began inviting select individuals to become his followers…. To become disciples of a rabbi meant entering a rigorous program of transformation, learning a new way of life, a new set of values [and] skills. It meant … facing a new set of dangers on the road. Once they were thoroughly apprenticed as disciples, they would then be sent out as apostles to spread the rabbi’s controversial and challenging message everywhere. One did not say yes to discipleship lightly. [1]

Contemplative writer Joyce Rupp reflects upon Jesus’ difficult teaching for followers to “take up their cross and follow him”:

What did the crowd following Jesus think when he made that tough statement [Luke 14:27]? Did they wonder what carrying the cross meant? Did they have second thoughts about accompanying him? Jesus wanted his followers to know that the journey they would make involved knowing and enlivening the teachings he advocated. In other words, Jesus was cautioning them, “If you decide to give yourselves to what truly counts in this life, it will cost you. You will feel these teachings to be burdensome at times, like the weight of a cross.”

We can’t just sit on the roadside of life and call ourselves followers of Jesus. We are to do more than esteem him for his generous love and dedicated service. We do not hear Jesus grumbling about the challenges and demands of this way of life. We do not see him “talking a good talk” but doing nothing about it. He describes his vision and then encourages others to join him in moving those teachings into action. [2]

McLaren invites us to join an adventurous and unknown journey in the spirit of Jesus’ first disciples:  

The word Christian is more familiar to us today than the word disciple. These days, Christian often seems to apply more to the kinds of people who would push Jesus off a cliff than it does to his true followers. Perhaps the time has come to rediscover the power and challenge of that earlier, more primary word disciple [which] occurs over 250 times in the New Testament, in contrast to the word Christian, which occurs only three times. Maybe those statistics are trying to tell us something.

To be alive in the adventure of Jesus is to hear that challenging good news of today, and to receive that thrilling invitation to follow him … as a disciple. [3]

[1] Brian D. McLaren, We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation (New York: Jericho Books, 2014), 94.

[2] Joyce Rupp, Jesus, Guide of My Life: Reflections for the Lenten Journey (Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2023), 20–21.

[3] McLaren, We Make the Road, 94.

Image credit: Jeremy Bishop, Untitled (detail), Australia, 2016, photograph, public domain. Click here to enlarge image.

The desert and the new sprout of spring green are part of the journey.

Story from Our Community:  

Recently, I stepped into the role of full-time caregiver for my 55-year-old daughter who was left paralyzed from the waist down after a long and arduous surgery. Both of our lives have been turned upside down. We are very close and love each other very much, but the past year has been a long and difficult journey. Adding to the emotional mix are a series of deep personal losses.… There have been days, weeks, months where I have felt great anger towards God.… Despite all the pain, I still feel an underlying sense of love and gratitude for all that is good. I have so appreciated the readings and community stories from Daily Meditations which have helped me in my spiritual growth. —Diane B.

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