A long time ago in a college far, far away, I took a philosophy course. I quickly came to admire my professor’s discipline, the strictness of his thought categories, the way he seemed to run his life along nice, straight lines. He had taught himself to draw a perfect circle freehand on the chalkboard. He used a ruler to underline events in his desk calendar. He had this orderly way of logicking in the world, and I liked his approach: think clearly, make informed decisions, draw straight lines and perfect circles.
While I admired his clearheaded way of thinking about life, I’ve never been able to live it out. My lines aren’t as straight, my circles wobblier. It’s partly constitutional: that’s the way I roll. But it’s also because I’ve discovered along the way that following Jesus will mean taking in a few curves and bends and twists. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, the one way to the Father (John 14:6). But I’ve also learned that there’s more than one way to walk Jesus’ way.
If you’ve ever looked to God for guidance, you’ll likely know what I mean. I used to imagine that knowing the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2) would involve seeing a line from here to there, sharp and unswerving, straight as a ruler’s edge. Sometimes it’s been like that for me. But most of the time, there are legitimate choices–between two good options (or between bad and less bad). There are obstacles. We find ourselves having to go over or under or around. We have to find a way.In part, this is a result of the dissonance between God’s will and our capacity to live God’s will out. Fear freezes us. Regret gunks up the gears of hope. We slide into easy when God is urging us on to what is good.
But there’s more to following the way of Jesus than just hearing and obeying the will of God. You see, we’re called not just to do certain things in life. We’re called to become. In fact, I’m convinced that following the Jesus way is more about the kind of person we become than about the exact details of what we do.
Sure, what we do matters. But our actions will reflect the kind of person we are, and what God most desires is that the life of Christ is evermore imprinted on us. It happens little by little, day by day. We’re called to grow in faith and knowledge so that we might come “to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). That’s God’s end goal. That’s where the line winds up.
Following Jesus is about the kind of person we’re becoming. It’s less about asking ourselves which way we’re going. The real question might be: Which way are you growing?