Recently my 7-year old son took a “mental health day.” OK, maybe that’s not what it was. I don’t know.
He woke up tired and snotty. He didn’t seem sick enough to deserve to skip school. (I come from a long line of parents who believed that only severed limbs and near-comatose illness got you an excused absence from school.) But he was dragging badly. That’s not normal for him. Tigger is his spirit animal! So, I decided to keep him home.
He slept several more hours while I worked. Then he accompanied me on an appointment. After that, we stopped at the grocery store to pick up a can of his favorite soup, and a box of Jello. He’d asked me to teach him how to make it, and that’s well within my culinary skills.
At day’s end, he was back on track. When we were heading to bed, and I gave him one last hug, he told me in his gravelly little voice, “Dad, it was a great day. I loved being with you.”
Oh man. Those words were a shot of joy injected directly into my tired system. I didn’t even care if he was sick or not; My heart jumped. I had a pretty good day too. Maybe the thing that needed care wasn’t his body so much as our relationship.
A Light Invitation
I’ve been reading John’s gospel again, so when I was reflecting on my son’s words, a tender scene from an earlier passage came to mind.
Jesus was brand new to the story. Most people didn’t know anything about him, other than John the Baptist’s stunning recommendation. A couple of John’s students took his cue and went after Jesus. Maybe they wanted to hear more from him. You can read the whole story in John 1:35-42.
When Jesus saw them, he asked what they were wanted. “Where are you staying?” they responded. They wanted something more than a quick conversation. They wanted to hang out for a bit, get to know him.
Jesus’ answer to them is so hope-filled for me. “Come and see,” he said. Come and see! That’s an invitation for sure. Come see what I’m up to. Come spend the afternoon with me. Come and see for yourself.
I love that invitation. It’s light and welcoming. Sometimes we’ve made the invitation of Jesus so severe. This is a big deal, we’ve said. Your eternity is on the line, we’ve said. It’s time to get on your knees and make a life-long commitment to follow Jesus with all that you are and have!
I get it. That’s the kind of commitment an intentional spiritual life really is. And yet, I’m 44 now. I’ve made that commitment a bunch of times. And for all the love I have for Jesus, I’ve never been able to keep my side of the deal.
I promise and then I find a niggling way around my promise. I commit and then when trying to do the right thing, I end up hurting someone, blowing it anyway. I pray in the morning that my heart will be turned toward Jesus all day long, and by lunch my mind is a tangled spider’s web of anxiety, urgency, and oatmeal cookie cravings.
Maybe I’m a terrible Christian. Or maybe, I’m a human person, full of good and full of bad, who is captivated by Jesus, who is walking in toddling steps toward the promised land. When I face my honest truth, I can only be thankful for God’s grace!
So, when I hear Jesus make this precious invitation, my heart leaps. He could have said, “You know, you two are excellent candidates for this new ministry I’m building. You already have disciple experience. You’re showing initiative. That makes you leaders. Let’s get started.” But he didn’t.
He just said (and in my mind’s eye, with a smile), “Come and see.”
The commitment invited was just to walk a ways, to talk a ways, and to see what happens. That’s a commitment I can make. I think it might even be a commitment I can keep.
They did. The text says that these disciples spent the day with Jesus. Think about that for a moment. Spending a whole day with Jesus.
The closest experience I have to compare is a day I once spent with Rich Mullins. If you don’t know him, Rich was a renegade Christian musician in the late-early-days of Christian music. He was broken but loved Jesus with all his heart. He wrote songs that felt simple, yet carried a payload of profound truth. Their raw honesty could tunnel deeply into your soul. He felt like a prophet to me.1
I was in college, starting to think myself a songwriter, when I saw that Rich was coming in concert to a church nearby. The show was great. He and his band-mate-friend Beaker played for what felt like hours. At the concert’s end, he said, “I love singing, but more than that, I love talking about ministry and serving people. So, I’m going to hang out tomorrow, and anyone who wants to join me is welcome.”
I didn’t hear anything else. I ditched all my classes and met Rich Mullins at a Skyline Chili in Cincinnati. There were a couple other people there. I don’t remember them at all. We spent the day talking about God, and church, and ministry, and music, and the beautiful-painful path of following Jesus. It was one of the most treasured afternoons in my life.
Now, imagine instead of spending that time with a shaggy-haired, rebellious musician, it was Jesus. That’s what these two men got in exchange for their commitment. “Come and see,” Jesus said, and they did.
An afternoon together changed them.
We don’t know what they talked about or what happened. I wish we had a chapter on that! But we do know that the afternoon impacted them deeply. We can tell by what happened next.
The first thing Andrew, one of the two, did was find his brother, Simon. When he found Simon, it was like he was sharing the greatest thing ever. (Well, he was.) “Come on, Simon. You won’t believe it! We’ve found the Messiah, the anointed one!” And then, he took Simon to Jesus.
This wasn’t an insignificant moment. Simon was the blustery, passionate, proto-leader that Jesus turned into Peter. After three years of discipleship, and navigating through his own betrayal of Jesus, Peter became the heart and soul of the church in Jerusalem, one of the men who continued Jesus’ community and message after Jesus was gone.
I’m intrigued, though, by how this came about. Andrew didn’t attend a workshop or a conference. He didn’t get a big evangelistic speech convincing him of the scripture’s truth.
What he got was a quiet afternoon hanging out with Jesus, face-to-face. Somehow, in that time, in that space of personal connection and conversation, Andrew became convinced of who Jesus was, and it moved him to act. It changed his life and the life of his family — and through his family, it changed the life of countless others.
All because Andrew had a desire to hang out with Jesus for a while, and when Jesus invited him, he said yes.
I grew up in a church that told us to take care of our moral behavior, to take care of our scripture knowledge, to take care of our correct doctrine. To take care not to violate any of these things.
Those are things worth caring about, and yet, 44 years in—after spending a lot of years being the best I can be, studying scripture and doctrine, and being about as a good a Christian as I can manage—I think maybe those are secondary things.
Jesus’ invitation is first and foremost an invitation to care for our relationship. To spend time together. We don’t have the present luxury of face-to-face time with the embodied Jesus. But we have Jesus’ immediate presence through the Holy Spirit.
That means that when we ask Jesus, “Where are you staying?” He can smile at us and say, “Come and see,” all while pointing to our hearts and inviting us into that quiet space where we can sit in His presence, regardless of who we are or where we find ourselves.
I want that kind of personal connection with Jesus. I’ve made lots of commitments to follow Jesus in my life, the life-long big-deal, get-baptized sort of commitments. Those have their place in my story. They are about conviction and hope and belief and accepting truth.
But (at least for me) they haven’t always been about relationship. Andrew did end up making a doctrinal declaration about Jesus, but it wasn’t until after he had spent the day with him. Face to face. An afternoon. Listening. Being with. Being changed by Jesus’ presence.
That’s the invitation I’m answering today today. I plan on answering it again tomorrow. You can too.
- Rich’s most well-known song is Awesome God. It’s a good church song, but it’s not even remotely representative of Rich’s writing. If you’re new to Rich Mullins, try out href=”http://amzn.to/1QN3O0j”>A Liturgy, a Legacy & a Ragamuffin Band.” It’s a great place to start. ▲