Last summer, I ran into a major frustration in my journey of faith. I had just found my faith the previous February, and everything about the Church was new to me. I was not sure what I was suppose to be doing as a “new” Christian, but I knew that I wanted God in the center of my life.
I do not remember the details of each sermon, but the overall message for several weeks in a row was that one must convert to Christ, turn from your old ways, repent, become a disciple of Christ. I kept waiting for the instructions on how to do this, but they never came. I became very frustrated. Inside, I knew that I could not ask for an instruction manual. I would have to find my own way. (A remnant of my old, self-reliant way.)
Some of you can probably guess at what I did next. I prayed and mediated for an answer to my dilemma. I opened up the Bible and began reading. I did not have to read very far until I came across Jesus’ two commandments: love God first, and love your neighbor. That was the key!
Now to be honest, at first I was not sure how to love God. I knew that I needed to pray everyday. Prayer, after all, is just a conversation with our Friend. Beyond that, I was not sure how to love Him. As for loving your neighbor, I could do that! I was already doing much of it in the way I lived each day. Of course, I could always do a better job of it. As it turned out, the way I showed my love for others in itself was a way to show love for God. Each act of love for another person was an act of love for God.
Fast forward to this summer. Over the past year, I attended RCIA classes. Two friends and I started a small prayer group. I was baptized and officially joined the Church. I started to read the Bible everyday. I also read several other influential books. My heart has grown for God and neighbor. I wanted more. Something more was required of me.
About three weeks ago, I attended a half-day retreat for the staff of my high school. Many things were discussed, but the one thing that had the greatest affect of me was Fr. Boyer’s comment about disciples being fearless: “The fear of abandonment triggers all other fears.” In other words, God was not going to abandon me (or any of us). I knew this, but it took hearing this again in different words for it to really sink into my heart. Something clicked inside and I truly wanted to be a disciple of Jesus. I did not want to be a lukewarm Christian. I wanted to be closer to God more than I ever thought possible.
Claude Muncey, at One Pilgrim’s Walk, elegantly described this as the second choice. The first choice is to accept the call to follow Jesus, to listen to what He has to say. The second choice is to make a commitment to become a true disciple and accept everything that entails.
The challenge of the second choice is the call “duc et altum” (the Holy Father’s favorite saying these days, it seems)—put out into the deep. If you have ever stepped into a small boat from a pier you know that the most dangerous moment is when you are both in the boat and on the shore—when you have one foot in the boat and one on the pier. You really need to decide to get on the boat, or stay ashore. That is what Jesus is asking each one of us—to abandon simply admiring Him from afar and make up our minds to get on the boat and set off on a voyage with Him. We don’t yet know where the boat is going, but we do know the Captain by now, and we know that He really does have power over the storms and waves of our lives.