I was thinking about the thoughts in the last post, and the curious stages of development I mentioned, and the disciples came to mind.
We read Peter and the others, in Acts or their letters, and see the profound faith, and fluidity of their spiritual walk. But there’s that curious passage from John 6, which follows the disciples hearing a teaching they don’t know how to accept, and which caused many to walk away:
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life ; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life . 64 But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him.
65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” 66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67 So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life . 69 We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.
“Does this offend you?” That’s the question before us. Are we willing to let go our selves and throw ourselves into the Spirit, even if this means letting go those promises of a which we are told make the supposedly happy life, full of friendships, and children, and career success, and financial security? Are we willing to endure the gap between our stepping away from this world and the discovery of the Spirit’s deeper blessings?
We are to refuse to step into positions prematurely no matter the temptations that presented opportunities to do so. We refuse because we hear that “No!” ever more clearly and distinctly in every area, and as we wait we are increasingly primed and allowing the tension to build for that expected “Yes!”.
We don’t say, “Hooray!” for Christ in our life’s blessings as first. We find ourselves stuck between there and here. Unable to go back, blind to the future. If we embrace Christ we don’t see instant light, instead we say, “Where else will we go, You have the words of eternal life.” And in saying this our faith becomes real and the opportunities, sometimes ludicrous opportunities of the Spirit for future profound blessings, begins to open up.
I think of Paul. Who also had a great “Yes!” in his life. His “Yes!” came after the most stark “No!” imaginable. He was blinded and thrown to the ground. He was given a “Yes!” that was in entire contrast to everything he had previously assumed or expected, but this “Yes!” was also his “No!”. He turned around and was shown that his “No!” to his previous path in life was Christ’s “Yes!”. This took a bit of work, but the results in him and around him still resonate to our day.
We’re not given that same stark choice for the most part, with our transition often being a significantly longer process. We tend to remain blinded as we stumble about, but the message is so often the same. We have been given time to find the maturity Paul found in an instant. But, so often we are told by Christ before us, “It hurts you to kick against the goads.” (Acts 26:14). Following the “No!”, kicking against the goads, becomes increasingly painful, so we learn not to do it, even if we haven’t been yet shown what we should do. I have a lot of experiences like this. Most people who I know who have truly found their life with Christ have experienced the same.
We leap off the cliff into the cloud of unknowing, trusting, believing, hoping, praying that the desires and promises we have been given haven’t been entirely lost even as we increasingly let them go. Our versions hold us back. Our expectations pull us down. We lighten the load by letting go these things, not knowing if we will ever see them, or anything palpable again.
Between “No!” and “Yes!” there are often great gaps, and mysteries which refuse to resolve. But we embrace these mysteries because that’s all we have. We look back and wonder about previous choices. With regret if we are low. With hope if our eyes are forward, knowing we let go for a reason and reasons more potent than we can even imagine.