A Long Obedience
An author whom I enjoy reading and greatly respect is Eugene Peterson. The name may be familiar to some as he produced a paraphrase version of the Scriptures known as the Message. One of his books which I have read a couple times now is entitled, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Picking it up again this week, I was struck by a line in the introduction. It reads, “One aspect of the world that I have been able to identify as harmful to Christians is the assumption that anything worthwhile can be acquired at once. We assume that if something can be done at all, it can be done quickly and efficiently…Religion in our time has been captured by the tourist mindset. Religion is understood as a visit to an attractive site to be made when we have adequate leisure.”
Even at that we want shortcuts. We want faith to be easily attainable with the quickest route possible. But century’s worth of Christians can testify faith is not a short path, but a long journey. To be a disciple is to be a pilgrim. The term disciple in Greek (mathetes) means learner or apprentice. The art of being an apprentice is one which has faded in our day and age; and yet, the term is quite instructive for us. An apprentice learns skills from a master on the job. They acquire knowledge and proficiency of a craft through an extended period of practice and learning. To become a skilled tradesman requires fortitude and commitment. It requires time and energy. One will never become a master at the craft if they are inconsistent in their attention to it nor give up when it gets too hard.
Such a notion of discipleship runs counter to our culture’s tourist mindset of faith. Jesus, as the master craftsman calls us to a lifetime of learning the trade of becoming Christlike alongside him. Such cannot be accomplished in a one-time sitting or in a single decision. It cannot be accomplished by attending worship occasionally or even every Sunday. It requires a daily commitment to the blessed life God has for us in Christ. It requires an unlearning of old habits and a learning of new habits. It requires fortitude, responsibility, and an unquenchable desire for God.
Let us not settle for “good enough” in our walks of faith, but let us run the race as the apostle Paul says, “not having already obtained all this or already reached the goal, but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” What areas of your walk of faith which could use more attention or “longer obedience?” Would it be service to your neighbor? More attention to daily study? Your attendance among the Body of Christ in worship? Your knowledge and understanding of Scripture? Forgiveness of a friend or relative? I encourage you to take one more step deeper in this pilgrimage and discover an even greater life with God.