Jalene and I recently moved back to the city after having lived in the much smaller town of Three Hills. There are many differences between city and town, and perhaps my least favourite of them is the traffic. In the past several months I have found myself sitting in a line up of vehicles staring into the distance, able to see my destination, and being struck with the thought that it would be faster to walk than drive to my destination! My second consideration is that if I just pulled out of the line of traffic, if I just stopped following the masses, I could forge my own way ahead and reach my destination sooner (apparently I need to grow in patience), can you relate?
We are often forced into following. We wait our turns in traffic, line ups, or follow the mechanical voice of Siri guiding us along freeways and boulevards so we can get to where we need to go. It is also common for us to follow without giving much or any consideration to the fact that we are following.
In my observation, we live in a culture where we are constantly asked to follow. This invitation is often subtle, yet makes significant effects on how we live our lives. We are invited to follow the masses into obtaining what our culture calls, “the good life”: the realization of perfect outcomes. The perfect job with the perfect income; the perfect career highlighted by achieving perfect and significant results; the perfect spouse and perfect children; the perfect house, and possessions; the perfect body and perfect health. And all of these are to be realized in a perfect state of bliss, happiness and contentment. The “good life”.
Have you realized this, “good life” yet? Have you found yourself following after it?
Following our North American culture’s idea of this “good life” can lead to fatigue, frustration, hurt, envy, strife… the list goes on (and includes depression, anxiety, and burn out), because one of many problems with this idea of the “good life”, is that it is inviting people to follow and to chase after something that can never be realized. This “good life” is built upon the reality that it is unachievable. There will always be more, there will always be an imperfection, a blemish, a relational conflict, a failure. Yet we run and follow after this as if it will somehow soon be realized and our hearts then satisfied.
I was stuck this week as I studied Ephesians to read that the Apostle Paul characterizes the Christian walk as being one which is no longer following the culture. He writes in Ephesians 2, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world…” The invitation made in Ephesians, and throughout Scripture, is for us, all of us, to “unfollow” this world, and instead follow Christ. The invitation is to walk in a different way, and for the way of the world to be one in which we once walked but do not currently walk.
Not a week goes by that I don’t hear the subtle invitation of culture, that I don’t feel in my heart a pull follow after “the good life”. But Jesus is also calling, Jesus is inviting me to to follow His way, to walk his way. Friends, if we believe that God is the author of life, if we believe that Jesus came to give us life and life to the full, we must realize that the longings inside of us can only be satisfied by the one who designed us to have them, that they can only be satisfied by God.
Our lives then become a journeying with God and following in HIS ways. Ephesians 2 goes on to say these familiar words,
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
When we follow his ways we recognize that we are his work (that he has designed us and has a plan and purpose for our existence, and has worked salvation for and in us), and that we get to participate in HIS GOOD WORK. This good work is the context by which we are to go to work, spend time with our families, shop at the grocery store, attend church, and rush about the endless to-do list. The work is no longer an end to the unachievable means of cultures “good life”, rather the work becomes (when engaging in it with God), participation in His good work. No matter our context we engage in our work as working for God, and in doing so we work with him, extending his grace, mercy, love, kindness, and character towards those around us.
So let us consider the way we are walking, let us consider what or who we are following. I pray that you will join with me in seeking to be one who has unfollowed this culture, and is following Jesus, participating in His good work.