Traveller, your footprints
Are the path and nothing more;
Traveller, there is no path,
The path is made by walking.
By walking the path is made
And when you look back
You’ll see a road
Never to be trodden again.
• Antonio Machado
“We don’t believe something by merely saying we believe it, or even when we believe that we believe it. We believe something when we act as if it were true.”
• Dallas Willard
• • •
When Jesus called Simon and Andrew, he said, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men” (Mark 1:16, NASB).
- The call was to pursue a course of ongoing action.
- The promise was that they would become something they were not before.
- The outcome would be that, through them, other human beings would likewise come and follow Jesus.
He did not bid them follow merely to train them for doing a task (“fishers of men”). He bid them follow so that they might become new (“I will make you become”).
Acting leads to becoming which leads to influencing.
He did not call the disciples to come into a classroom.
He did not give them a book to read.
He did not hand out a class syllabus.
He did not lay out for them a course or program of study.
They were not required to memorize a catechism.
There were no papers to write, projects to complete, tests to take.
One word of instruction was spoken: Follow me.
St. Francis’s first companion was Bernard of Assisi. When he sought Francis’s advice about what to do to become a disciple, Francis quoted three simple instructions Jesus gave in the Gospels: “If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell all that thou hast and give to the poor, and come, follow me;” “Take nothing with you for your journey: neither staff, nor scrip, nor bread, nor money;” and, “If any one will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
Then St Francis said to Bernard: “This is the advice that the Lord has given us; go and do as thou hast heard; and blessed be the Lord Jesus Christ who has pointed out to thee the way of his angelic life.”
Francis did not set before Bernard a statement of doctrine or belief to which he should assent, but said, in essence, “Follow Jesus.” Go and do as thou hast heard.
How different so many of us are in the contemporary church, as described by Dallas Willard: “We intend what is right, but we avoid the life that would make it reality.”
Many of us avoid this way, or we want to quit along the way because we’re afraid; we know it involves effort and suffering and laying down our lives for the benefit of others. But “doing what we have heard” is and remains essential for our becoming.
Richard Rohr writes some wise words about this:
I believe that, in the end, there are really only two “cauldrons of transformation”: great love and great suffering. And they are indeed cauldrons, big stew pots of warming, boiling, mixing, and flavoring! Our lives of contemplation are a gradual, chosen, and eventual free fall into both of these cauldrons. There is no softer or more honest way to say it. Love and suffering are indeed the ordinary paths of transformation, and contemplative prayer is the best way to sustain the fruits of great love and great suffering over the long haul and into deep time. Otherwise you invariably narrow down again into business as usual.
The journey of faith is never business as usual, even during business as usual. As we walk the path, a path is being made.
And still, the word keeps coming: Follow me.
• • •
Photo by Freddie Phillips at Flickr. Creative Commons License