“I only have 26 more pages until I’m at the half-way point in this book.”
My daughter’s comment punctured the quiet of our ride home. Usually the radio in the car is on. But my kids occasionally read in the car, and when they do I gladly ride along with them in silence. Actually, it’s a nice change.
Once my daughter had made her announcement to me she went right back to her reading. A comment like that will typically get a response from me about just enjoying the book or something to that effect. This time I let it go with a short affirmation like “You’re doing great.”
But her assessment of her progress stayed with me a while. I’m glad my daughter is making her way through the book, but to read is to do more than count the pages. To truly read a book is to enter the story, to lose yourself in the world the author has created, to become a participant in the drama. That’s the kind of reading I want my kids to do. I didn’t say all that to Anna, but had I offered my wisdom in response to her announcement that’s what I would have said. Don’t miss the story for counting the pages.
That’s the invitation Jesus was extending when he said “follow me.” To follow Jesus was to enter a story. A disciple is one who participates in what God is doing in the world. Followers of Jesus find God at work in the everyday, recognizing that God’s story is expansive and that everything is somehow included in the story.
While Jesus was inviting some to follow he was constantly confronted by those who preferred to simply count pages. These were the Pharisees. They measured their own progress in the story without fully entering it. They were always taking stock of how well they were doing. While they claimed to revere the author of the story, they had a hard time allowing themselves to take a role in the drama.
Case in point: hand washing. The Pharisees observed that the disciples of Jesus were not very careful about washing their hands before eating. They questioned Jesus about this, rebuking him for his failure to honor the tradition of the elders. Jesus replied by quoting Isaiah. “These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me” (Mark 7:6). When our hearts are distant we start counting pages. We read the words, honoring with our lips, but never entering the story.
Once again today we are invited to enter the story of what God is doing in the world. God is on a mission, loving the world, blessing all people and all nations. The comprehensive word for what God is doing is “salvation.” It is a large and exciting story – and we are included.
To find God in the everyday means that we will be ever vigilant against two mistakes: One is simply counting the pages, measuring performance, going through the motions of the story without letting the story move into us. The other error is our inclination to assume the role of author and craft a plot more to our own liking.
God works every day in the everyday. The drama includes you. How will you participate in that story today?
Gracious God, make us more than observers of what you are doing. Help us to shift the focus from ourselves to you. Keep us from simply counting pages and draw us into your story as it takes shape in the most ordinary parts of this day we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.