There’s a good ol’ campfire song that I’ve sang for years and years, and yet am just now starting to truly comprehend. It’s a simple tune, accompanied by nice, flowing words, but the profound message is penetrating when I stop to reflect on what it means for my life. Is this something I simply sing, or is it a prayer of affirmation and commitment?
“I have decided to follow Jesus…no turning back, no turning back. Though none go with me, still I will follow…no turning back, no turning back.”
The gravity of this song has been weighing on me over the last few years as I have sought to understand what it truly means to follow Jesus, no matter where he calls me. When I decided to follow Jesus, what did it entail? Was it a timid, “Sure, but only when it’s convenient,” or the “I’ll follow, Jesus, but don’t expect me to change anything major”? Was it a covenant to follow privately, but don’t even think about asking me to take a stand on controversial or ‘unpopular’ issues? What if I come to a breaking point, a line in the sand over which I can’t step?
By choosing the waters of baptism and the path of the disciple, I also chose to go on this grand adventure with God, not knowing where all it might take me, but assured that the One who walks beside me is faithful. It is a journey that is changing my life, one that forces me to examine things from a new perspective. When I contemplate war, poverty, immigration, food choices, sexual (and sexuality) issues, resource consumption, and whether or not I choose to engage the lonely man sitting next to me on the train, I hear the words of this song resonating deep within. I turn to God’s poetry in scripture and God’s prose in lived experience and find a new way to be human, one that, by its very nature, does not allow me to stay where I have been. I have decided to follow Jesus – no turning back.
Is our faith like a piece of clothing we can change and take off casually, or is it an embodiment of Christ’s love in the world, something that enters so deeply into our being that we cannot detach ourselves from it? To say “I have decided to follow Jesus” is indeed a dangerous prayer, for it will take me to places I never dreamed of venturing. But I have. And I will.