Monday, June 15, 2009

"But the flocks!"

I have mentioned previously that I'm reading Ben-Hur. It had been slow going, but on the airplane during my trip I managed to read a ton.

The first part of Ben-Hur is about the birth of Jesus. It mainly follows the wise men on their journey, but in one chapter it deals with the shepherds who were watching their flocks. The shepherds see the angles and here is their reaction:
"'There is but one place in Bethlehem where there are mangers; but one, and that is in the cave near the old khan. Brethren, let us go see this thing which has come to pass. The priests and doctors have been a long time looking for the Christ. Now he is born, and the Lord has given us a sign by which to know him. Let us go up and worship him.'

'But the flocks!'

'The Lord will take care of them. Let us make haste.'"
This passage struck me as soon as I read it. These shepherds had just seen a multitude of angels proclaim the birth of Jesus. One of them is like "Hey, let's go" and in response one of them says, "And just leave the sheep?" At first I thought this dutiful shepherd absurd. Really? Jesus is born and you're concerned about sheep? God is made flesh and you don't immediately go running to him?

Then I was struck by how many times I do this.

God will call me to do something and I will say, "But my work, God! I can't just leave it. I'll go later, when the work is done." Could you imagine if the shepherds had done that?

"Jesus is born? Oh, well, someone has to watch the sheep. Sorry, angelic messenger. We'll go see the Christ when the sheep are taken care of."

The very idea of such a response is ridiculous, but it is the response I give every day. Every time God asks me to do anything I point to my work and say I can't. If I had been a shepherd I would have waited until someone else could take care of the sheep. If I had been Peter or Andrew, I would only have followed Jesus after my fishing was done.

Notice neither of the stories work that way. No disciple said, "After I take care of the fish, my lord."

Jesus even tells that one guy he can't follow him because the guy says, "I'll come back after I bury my father."

This has led me to a thought.

Maybe I'm not supposed to be so dutiful to my wordly life. Maybe God wants me to sometimes throw the sheep, fish, and other responsibilities to the wind and just follow Him.

Maybe God wants me to take risks.

It's a scary thought. I'm not much of a risk taker. I'm Martha, busily setting things up and preparing dinner. But Jesus did not praise Martha. He praised Mary.

I struggle with this thought, with this idea. How do I become Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus? How do I set aside the responsibilities and fears that have been engrained inside of me and just follow?

I don't know the answer. If you do, please share it with me. For now I can only hope that if I see a burning bush or a multitude of angels, I won't be the one says, "But the flocks!"

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