Borrowing a phrase from Friedrich Nietzsche, Eugene Peterson wrote a book entitled, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. It's a phrase that captures our call as followers of Christ.

In the Jewish world of Jesus, it was customary for disciples to follow their rabbi so closely that they got covered in the dust from his footsteps as he walked up the sandy path ahead of them. They wanted to hear every word, to understand every instruction, to stay close to their rabbi as he led the way. Spending hour after hour, day after day, following him around, they not only listened to what their rabbi said. They watched what he did and the way he reacted. Their goal was to become as much like him as possible because they believed he was living a life that pleased God. That's how we should think about our relationship with Christ. Jesus is our Rabbi, the one who shows us what it means to live the God-blessed life. Remember his words to his disciples:

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

My brother Jim had a way with dogs. We called him the family dog whisperer. In addition to curing our pets of their various neuroses, he helped other people's dogs, guilty of bad behaviors like peeing on rugs, jumping on people, running away, pulling on leashes, leaping through screens, barking nonstop, and fighting with other dogs. Jim tailored his approached to the dog's temperament, seeking to understand its strengths and weaknesses. But his secret weapon, the thing that helped the dogs to change, came from the fact that he knew dogs are pack animals in search of a strong pack leader. Without one, dogs become anxious, neurotic, or aggressive. So he became their pack leader. Once the dog sensed that he had taken that role, they began to calm down and get into line. They no longer had to try to be their own pack leader. Sensing his energy, they became both peaceable and teachable, and it was amazing how well they got along with each other and how quickly they changed.

Though humans are not dogs, we too need a leader whose energy can lead us toward greater peace and freedom. When we follow Jesus, our Rabbi, and stay close to him, we begin to calm down. We become more peaceful because we let go of our pretensions to rule the universe. We stop trying to do the impossible, such as seeing the future or controlling every circumstance. We leave what belongs to God in God's hands. We also listen for his voice because we know that Jesus can help us navigate our present. Following him makes us peaceable and teachable, even in the most unpredictable and frightening of circumstances.





Originally published October 29, 2019.