I've been reading a book by Eugene Peterson called, The Jesus Way: Conversations on the Ways that Jesus is the Way. So far, I'm really enjoying it, although some of it is a little slow -I want it to get going. But it has been used by God to remind me and connect me more deeply with how Jesus is the Way and how that way includes following Jesus.
I find it funny how the simple things get muddled through our pursuit of things. A good goal swallows up the means of the true Way of life. Suddenly, life is about feeling better or changing my circumstances or growing in emotional stability or getting things to be how I want them to be, under the guide of Jesus and using Jesus to get them. But returning to the concept of following Jesus, which in itself cannot reduced to a concept, changes everything.
And one of the things that Peterson has been reminding me of is how the metaphor of Jesus as the Way is just that -a metaphor. In fact, it encompasses more than my words can delineate. It is the difference between looking on a map to discover where I am and looking around me and taking in the view of the mountains and the grass and the streams and breathing in the sweet air. The point is, while there are aspects of it that I can describe in words, I don't have to because it is something apprehended by faith... something known with more than the intellect, something known by the Spirit of God.
Peterson gave a vivid picture of how the Lord's table, or the eucharist and the eucharistic liturgy, metaphorically portray what I will describe as the Gospel coming to us as life and spreading life through us (i.e. what the Christian life is).
"God means to do something with us, and he means to do it in community. We are in on what God is doing, and we are in on it together. And here is how we are in on it: we become present to what God intends to do with and for us through worship, become present to the God who is present to us. The operating Biblical metaphor regarding worship is sacrifice - we bring ourselves to the altar and let God do with us what he will. We bring ourselves to the eucharistic table and enter into that grand fourfold shape of the liturgy that shapes us: taking, blessing, breaking, and giving - the life of Jesus taken and blessed, broken, and distributed. That eucharistic life now shapes our lives as we give ourselves, Christ in us, to be taken, blessed, broken, and distributed in lives of witness and service, justice and healing." (from the Introduction)
In fact, to say this is "the Gospel" coming to us and doing anything is, at the outset, somewhat incomplete. It is true, as far as it goes, but to say it is "the Gospel" doing anything is impersonal in itself. It is not solely an idea or a message that comes. That is true. But it is a living, breathing Savior who comes to us and then comes into us. It is personal. He doesn't give us a fact. He didn't leave us with bare assurances. It is not merely a "doctrine," though it is. It is Him. Personal, corporate yet personally connected to us each.
I love the way Peterson describes it. Jesus comes, is blessed, broken, and distributed. On Him I feast, on Him I am sustained, and then His life is spread through me to others as I, with Him now living in me, am blessed, broken, and distributed to others through service. And that is where following comes in. This is my purpose, shaped by the reality of Jesus Christ. It is not to primarily find some kind of self-actualization. It is to find what I find so beautiful in my Savior working its way out in my life as my eyes leave myself and my life, as I follow and embrace Him and what is so beautiful about Him: how He was blessed and broken and given.
And so I follow, and I learn how to follow, and I learn what it means to follow, and I learn why following Him is better, why being broken and distributed in following Him is better than having a great reputation or thinking I am righteous or being appreciated or having the applause and approval of others or getting all this world has to offer. "Follow Me," He said. "Yes, Jesus. May I count everything as loss for the sake of knowing You and having You..."