Reflections on Leaving: Farewells, Dead Fathers, and Following Jesus

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62)

This summer, Jesus used these few verses to drastically change my life. I had just signed a 1-year renewal lease on my apartment in May, fully prepared to stay one, final year in this city. Except I am not, all because of the Spirit using these verses to go after my heart and the fears held within it.

For years now, I have been following Jesus. Sometimes it is simple and easy to follow him. Other times it feels more like dying in order to truly live (Gal. 2:20). Far too often I fall into ditches, dig my own wells, and look for light apart from Christ. But, through it all, Jesus has been faithful to “bring me to myself” and lead me back to the Father’s house (Luke 15:11-32).

This season has been no different. How desperately I have wanted every piece to fall into place before making a decision as big as moving away. My personality likes all the eggs to be in the basket, all the ducks to be lined up, and the last leaf to fall before I make a life change. But Jesus doesn’t seem to care near as much about my comfort, if my comfort is keeping me from him.

How well our Savior knows that we will stay long past the funeral and the long, Minnesota good-byes. The sun will rise and set on a decade and we still won’t have gone all the way after Christ. Jesus has no use for fickle disciples who put their own lives ahead of pursuing him. He is not heartless nor is he a hater of families, but he knows our hearts and he knows how easy it is for us to put him off. And he will not be put off or wait around forever for us to decide to leave our comfy homes, our safe careers, our lovely families, and our long good-byes.

No one who clings to these things above Jesus is worthy to be his disciple. He demands that we count the cost of following him, and then simply do it, without looking back (Luke 14:25-33).

Comfort is the enemy of the cross. Christ is not exalted when I place stipulations on what I’ll give up or where I’ll go or live. He receives the leftovers when I am still running the show of my life. He means to have my heart, but he will never fully have it, if I only give him what remains after I’ve decided how far I’ll go with things for him. This is not obedience to the call of Christ on my life. It really is no different from the disciples who told Jesus they had fathers to bury and farewells to be said. Jesus knows that if we wait to follow him until everything is perfect, we’ll never come.

We don’t need every last detail to fall into place before following Jesus. We don’t need a hundred reassurances that life is going to be okay before just getting out of the boat and walking toward our Savior. We only need to hear the call of Christ on our lives and go after him with everything we have.

Jesus, thank you for not relenting in the pursuit of our whole hearts. Would you help us to hear your deep love for us in the hard things you say to us? And would you help us to trust you, even when we can’t see what you are doing or we don’t know how everything will end? Would you enable us to follow after you with all that we are, for your glory and our deep joy in you?

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