Sunday morning, during our weekly church meeting, my friend MaÃ«l taught from Matthew 4. Part of the teaching concerned Jesus’ call for Andrew, Peter, James, and John to follow him.
I watched one of the brothers sitting on the floor in the back of the room with his infant son. They were playing with a box of wooden blocks which were scattered on the floor around them. The father was picking up the blocks one by one and placing them in the box.
I watched as the son clumsily picked up a block and almost tossed it at the box. Somehow the block managed to go into the box. The boy then reached for another block, seemingly forcing his hand and arm to go places and do things that they did not want to do. Finally, the child grasped the block and forced his arm again to move toward the box, where he released the block.
This played out over several minutes. The father expertly picking up the blocks and smoothly and silently placing them into the box. The young boy tried to mimic his father, but his motions were less than perfect, not quite smooth, and rarely silent. But, the boy was able to put the wooden blocks into the box.
I realized that this was a picture of what it must look like to God when we attempt to follow Jesus. From the most mature believers to the newest follower, how clumsy and awkward and imperfect we must look to him! It would be so much cleaner if God did everything himself without involving us at all. But, God did not choose to work that way. Instead, he called us to follow him as he works in the world.
When we follow Jesus, we will usually find ourselves in the position of the infant child. We may serve, but it will be clumsy, messy service. We may speak, but our words will be awkward and imprecise. We may love, but our love will be less than genuine. We may follow, but we follow with the unsure steps of an infant son – wobbly, unstable, distracted, selfish, wandering. We will follow imperfectly.
So, does this mean that we should not attempt to follow at all? No! When someone is in need, do hesitate because of our imperfections? No! When someone needs a work of instruction or correction or comfort, do we remain silent because our words are often clumsy? No! Do we allow those more capable than us to serve or to speak? No!
Why? Because we have been called to follow; so, follow we must. As Jesus’ hands cared for the hurting, we must care for the hurting. As Jesus called people to repent, we must call people to repent. We recognize that our efforts are feeble and our words are awkward, but this should not drive us to inaction and silence! Instead, this recognition must drive us to complete reliance upon the Holy Spirit to work any good thing through our actions or our words. This recognition removes any source of boasting on our part, and shifts all glory and honor to God through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit.
The one who clumsily helps those in need is following Jesus Christ. The one who refuses to help because their efforts may fall short is not following Jesus Christ. The one speaks awkwardly in an effort to encourage and build up others is following Jesus Christ. The one who refuses to speak because their words are not as refined as others is not following Jesus Christ.
By the way, I found out later from the father in my story that this was the first time that his son has attempted to put away the wooden blocks. I’m sure that this father was very proud of his son for his attempt, however clumsy and imprecise it may have been. Perhaps, our Father would be just as proud of those who decided for the first time to actually serve others or speak to others in spite of their own clumsy efforts. We know from 1 Peter 4:10-11 that God receives glory when we serve and speak to others.