A different kind of Follower

Thursday, July 31, 2014

What's the first thing that comes into your mind when you think about being a follower?  Do you think of that term positively or negatively?  If someone said they wanted to follow you, would you be honored or annoyed? Outside of the Christian mindset of being a follower of Jesus, in my mind, I've given "being a follower" a negative connotation.  Maybe I'm channeling too far back, thinking about being a follower in the middle school days which was more likely referred to as being a copy cat...but I can vividly remember being annoyed when so-and-so would do something exactly like I did it, or literally follow me around on the playground when she didn't really ask me if she could do that.  One of my friends even went so far as to get super mad at me because she thought I cut my hair to be just like her!  For whatever reason, that idea has left a bad taste in my mouth about being a follower.  Like I want to say, "Why don't you just do things your own way?  If you're a follower that must mean that you aren't cool enough to be unique and do things your own way."

But really, isn't being a follower more like saying- "hey I think you are cool! So much so, that I want to be like you!" When someone follows you on Instagram or Twitter, are you annoyed or going to call them a copy cat?  No, you'll probably think it's affirming- that they like what they see.  And same for this space.  If someone started following me on bloglovin, I wouldn't be annoyed, I would be thrilled!  It would be an encouragement that someone likes what I have to say, right?

What got me thinking about all of this, was a discussion I had with my new bible study group where we were talking about what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  A part of our study was reading an article called Following Christ, by a man named Joseph Stowell.  In his article he talks about his relationship with his wife as compared to that of being a follower.  He talks about how he loves his wife so much that he continually wants to get to know her, he wants to care for her as best as he can, he wants to be where she is, and he is so compelled by her that he has been with her for 32 years now (as of 1996 when the article was written).  He says, "It is the pleasure and power of that relationship that affects not only my conduct toward her, but also the way I live all of my life."  That's one of the things that got me thinking, because doesn't that make following sound really awesome?

Instead of it being a negative connotation it's more like- I like you, I think you're really great.  And because of that, I want to get to know you so well, to understand how you live so that I too might live like you.  The way Stowell writes this, really put it into perspective for me.  He said, "the New Testament word for 'following'..."involves identifying so intimately with the one being followed that we incorporate our lives with his."  Based on this perspective of following, I most definitely want my relationship with my husband to reflect this idea; for our relationship to be so strong and so intimate that it affects how we live our lives.  And even more importantly, I want this to be so true of my relationship with Christ.

I think this is an area that I have been a little flat on lately.  I love Jesus and I know and value the fact that through Him I can have a relationship with God, but it's like I have put that relationship on the back burner.  He's still very much a part of my life and my thoughts, but I have not been intentional about pursuing the relationship, learning more about Him, and making it stronger.  And yet I still ask myself questions like, "why do I feel so far from Him, and why am I making stupid choices when I know that I want to live like He is living?"  Well, I mean, duh!  If I'm not as close to Him, how am I going to more easily walk in his ways?  (Same with my husband- how am I going to know how he needs to be cared for if we never talked to each other or something!)

Thinking about my relationship with Christ in this light, is the motivation I have needed to kick it back into gear.  Stowell encouraged this thinking by saying, "When I am far away form Him, replicating His character and conduct will seem like too tough a chore.  When, however, He is the central relationship in my life, radical reformation becomes the intriguing adventure of life."  I don't want to be so far away from Him that living like Him seems impossible.  I want to be up close and personal, getting to know Him more and more so that the essence of who He is just pours out of me.

Although this summer is crazy and sometimes it seems like there's not enough time in the day to be intentional about relationships, my hope and prayer is that this will be the encouragement I needed.  That the desire to be closer will truly motivate me and push me forward.

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