Follow Me. Jesus whispered these words to me a few months ago. I was in church. It felt like He was right there in front of me, pointing His finger at me and saying, “Elizabeth Trotter? Yes, you. I want you to follow Me. You — just you — follow Me.”
Rarely does Scripture come to me fast, strong, and seemingly out of nowhere like this. I knew this phrase came from John 21, so I opened up my Bible and read it. I hadn’t been reading this story lately, and it wasn’t a story that had ever meant much to me before. So I knew I had to pay attention to this message from God.
Over the next few weeks, I read the story, and re-read it, and then read it some more. Because the truth was, I was distracted, and I desperately needed to hear its message.
One morning after the Resurrection, Jesus and His disciples are by the sea, eating bread and fish. Jesus starts talking to Peter and asks, “Do you love me?” Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus tells him, “Then feed my sheep.”
A second time Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” A second time Peter answers, “Yes Lord, you know I love you.” And a second time Jesus tells him, “Then feed my sheep.”
Yet again Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” Peter’s feelings were hurt, and he answered again, “Yes Lord, you know I love you. And again Jesus tells him, “Then feed my sheep.”
Jesus then tells Peter what kind of death he is doing to die. Peter turns to look behind him and sees John. Peter then asks Jesus, “What about him, Lord?” Jesus replies, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what’s that to you?? As for you – follow me.”
I get distracted by so many things. I get distracted by feeling sorry for myself. I tell myself I’m such a terrible missionary because I don’t speak the language very well. I tell myself I don’t measure up, and I’ll never measure up. That I will never be good enough or worthy enough, and that everybody is rejecting me.
I get distracted by jealousy. I’ll see someone else who’s been given amazing ministry opportunities, and I’ll wish I had those opportunities. Why can’t that be me, God? Why can’t you let me do that? Why does she get to do that when You know I want to do it? Whether it’s teaching math and chemistry, or attending births as a doula, I can get distracted by what I don’t get to do instead of finding joy in what God has assigned me to do.
But the biggest distraction for me, by far, is controversies within the American church. Since I’ve moved overseas, I’ve kept up on hot-button issues in the United States. I tell myself I do this so that “I’m not out of the loop when I return.” But I’m not just informing myself when I read controversial blogs; I become emotionally embroiled in them.
I read what all the online voices are saying, and I become very worried over the direction of the Church. I have intense intellectual and emotional reactions to inflammatory blog posts. I formulate arguments in my head to combat them. ABC is right, and here’s why; XYZ is wrong, and here’s why. Surely that’s helpful, right?
Wrong. It doesn’t help. All it does is agitate and depress me. It distracts me from doing what God has already clearly told me I need to be doing with my time. Which means I’m wasting a lot of the time He has given me. It means I’m squandering His gifts.
Distractions, distractions, distractions. Not a single distraction is helpful for ministry, or my own personal spiritual life. Each distraction keeps me from doing what God has called me to do in this season of my life. When I get distracted by feelings of jealousy or inadequacy, or by worry over the future of the Church, I don’t have the time or energy to do any of the things He has called me to do. I cannot fulfill His purposes in my life if I spend all my time reading other people’s angry words.
The truth is, it’s not my job to guide the global Church. That’s the job of Jesus, and He can handle it. Hearing from God and writing out of my own relationship with Him does not in any way require that I be up-to-date on church controversies. It just doesn’t. I can follow Him without regard to what He is doing in anyone else’s life but my own. The truth is, I don’t have to know about religious debates in order to love my husband and children well, and to love women and teen girls well.
The truth is, I can do what God is calling me to do, right now, and I can be joyful in it, instead of being jealous. The truth is, I will never measure up as a “perfect” missionary or a ministry wife, because no one measures up — and that is actually the good news about Jesus’s sacrifice.
But when I’m distracted by any of these things, I’m not paying attention to God. When I’m distracted by these things, I don’t notice the person right in front of me. And I won’t be able to love them if I can’t see them. If I allow myself to be distracted, I won’t be able to follow the Greatest Commands to love God and people.
The day Jesus reminded me to follow Him only, I had been sitting in church, emotionally twisted over yet another American church issue. And I suddenly felt He was saying to me, “You – Follow Me. Stop turning your head to look at other people. Look at Me. Regardless of what anyone else around you is doing, I want you to follow Me.” In that moment, I realized I had been wasting my life on distractions. I wasn’t following; I was worrying.
Hearing the word of God on this issue made me re-evaluate my life. I can’t waste my time reading controversial blogs; instead, I must protect my time by staying away from online debates. I must say “no” to them — and I’m learning to. Refusing to read certain kinds of blogs releases me from the internal pressure to “save the American church.”
I must simply focus on what I can do, today, to serve God and others. I remind myself of Jesus’s words quite often. If I want to follow Jesus, then I, along with Peter, can’t look around at other people. I have to look at Jesus. I have to follow Him alone.
What about you? What has God already called you to do in this season of your life?
What distracts you and keeps you from fulfilling His purposes?
Is Jesus saying to you, today, “Follow Me”?