I used to wonder: if I were alive in Jesus’ time, in Galilee, would I recognize Jesus as someone special enough that I would lay aside everything to follow him? “I’ll make you fishers of people,” he said to Peter, James and John. And they brought their boats to shore and left their families and their livelihood behind without a backward glance.
I can only think of one time in my life when I was so impetuous. It was when I met the person who is now my partner and fell in love. Ah, nothing could have turned me aside from the deep desire to be with her at every waking moment. Nobody could have assailed me with reason or sense, nobody could have stopped my headlong plunge. I was a single minded fool, caught up entirely and devoted. And so my life changed entirely. And it was entirely worth it.
Falling in love with God has happened for me more slowly. It has come by fits and starts instead of all at once, head over heels. I remember moments in my life when God has been very near, and I have reached out with all my heart and strength to touch what I have perceived, shirking everything else. But there have been many other moments when it is as though there were no such thing in all the universe as God. I have acted like an isolated little god myself, alone in my own skull – making all my decisions like a petty dictator: this I will do; and that.
Slowly, over much time, I’ve grown closer to God. But it has been nothing like the headlong rush of James, John and Peter. It has entailed no delighted leap, no abrupt metanoia.
And yet I would have to say I recognize the voice of the Holy when I listen well enough to hear it. If we are honest with ourselves I think we all do. It is the sound of that which stirs the soul to wonder and hope. It is the call of wholeness and fulfillment, the refrain that would draw us away from compulsions and addictions, from avarice and rage, envy and power. It announces an abundant place of life and love. It is the siren of compassion and purpose. We all are listening for it all the time. We are hardwired to listen for it.
So the question of whether I would follow Jesus through the hinterland of Galilee to the city of Jerusalem is really beside the point. The better question is how do I recognize it when I fall in love with God? What do I do about it when, for the first time or the hundredth, it challenges me to leave my too-small life behind and follow the promise of wholeness and love?
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. See her work online at Everyday Mysteries With others she manages a website for the Diocese of Colorado highlighting congregations’ creative ministries: Fresh Expressions Colorado