Christmas season always brings a mixed bag of emotions for me. But feeling overwhelmed by the added responsibilities tends to eclipse the joy I really desire. So this week, I've been fighting. Analyzing what is stopping me from finding joy. Moving the pieces of the Christmas season puzzle around in my brain in case I can fit them together differently this year.
In the past, I've thought it was simply a calendar issue: if we can just say "no" to enough extras, we'll have time for joy. Though that's true to an extent, I suspected there was more going on.
Perhaps these symptoms of feeling overwhelmed, busy, demotivated, and burdened - let's call them the December Blues - are because I'm following the wrong thing. I'm asking myself who or what I'm following. Am I feeling guided by traditions (because "that's what we've always done"), my own new ideas, the culture's priorities, the sales, Pinterest, other bloggers? Or am I following Jesus and what He is guiding me toward right now, this December?
What does it even mean to follow hard after Him this season?
Today I thought a lot about the day when Jesus called a few fishermen, in the middle of their work, and said, "Follow me."
Mark records their response this way: "And immediately, they left their nets and followed Him." (Mark 1:18)
Some of the fishermen had been mending their nets, two brothers, James and John who worked for the family business. They too got up and "left their father in the boat." (Mark 1:20)
Let's not look at this scenario in a vacuum. We know a little about the way God works. He doesn't drop out of the sky into our lives and say "Follow me." He prepares the soil. He makes us uncomfortable, gives us vision and desire for more in our lives, He draws us deep down, usually way before He actually shows up. Put that knowledge into this scene with the first few disciples. Oblige me a little reading between the lines.
It's possible they wanted out. They were burnt. Each time they cast that net, something told them they were meant for more. The joy was gone. Their craving for change was at an all time high. Something had to give way. And along came Jesus on the beach. Their hearts nearly burst when he waved them over.
"And immediately, they left their nets and followed Him."
Aggh! Can you imagine how purpose and fulfillment came flooding into their lives again? Being in the center of His will, walking with Him, was exactly where they were meant to be. They could have said, "But the nets need mending....can I follow you later? I'm in the middle of something really important." They could have followed their ideas of what was important, or thought their timing was superior. They could have sought the favor of the men around them instead of the favor of God. But they dropped it all. It was a big risk.
Walking away wasn't without a great cost. Do you think their father was cheering them on from the boat, or shouting that they were crazy? Or irresponsible? Or worse? Do you think they wrestled with doubt after receiving scorn from the community? They certainly lost their jobs. Following Jesus is never without some cost.
This account in Mark reminds me that being a disciple is inconvenient. It can confuse and hurt the people closest to you. And it requires total devotion. To live in joy and deep fulfillment, sometimes we have to walk away from something. We have to leave our nets and follow Him.
So back to Christmas. I haven't asked Jesus, yet, where all my "nets" are that I need to walk away from to follow Him this season. But one, certainly, is the way we have handled gift giving in the past. This year, my husband and I are walking away from some of our past traditions in that regard. We got uncomfortable. We lost joy. We had a vision for more. So we left some nets. And it's not completely smooth in our extended family. We seem a little crazy.
What I want is to follow Jesus into each day this December. Still asking for His agenda for my days. Choosing joy and a positive attitude instead of a tired one. Is it just me, or is it strange to feel like truly following Him EVEN AT CHRISTMASTIME is a fight? So many things distract us from what really matters. Even good "spiritual" things. If I am yelling at my kids because we're late for volunteering at a church function, or rushing them through the day so we can have time for advent later, how much will that good thing really mean? It is a fine line between intentionality and just doing things because they are good ideas. And good ideas aren't necessarily God's ideas for me, for this moment, this year. I don't even really know what they are unless I ask Him.
As inconvenient or costly as it may be, I want to leave my nets when and where He calls me. That may mean I walk away from good ideas. Lower my expectations. Ruffle some feathers.
But I'll be with Jesus. Immanuel. God, who came down to be with us. The center of it all.
Being with Him is really all I want.
linking up with Amanda today here.