I like this picture. It was taken in our backyard last fall. It’s a beautiful landscape, a pond surrounded by trees in the late hues of autumn. It’s a scene I fell in love with the first time we saw this house. But it’s not a picture of that landscape. No one would mistake it for such. In the picture, that landscape is all a blur. Instead, it is a picture of relationship, of contoured intimacy, my wife affectionately nuzzled into the nape of my neck. It is a celebration of well-worn love. We fit together, a metaphor running beneath the image. Landscape blurred, relationship in focus.
Early in the gospel of Mark there are three episodes of Jesus calling men to follow him. The first two are back to back. He calls Simon (Peter) and Andrew (Mark 1:16-17). Immediately following he calls James and John (Mark 1:19-20). The third is separated by a chapter, when he calls Levi (Mark 2:13-14). In all three episodes, these men are invited to join Jesus on a journey. He calls them to follow and they accept the invitation. For the next few years they will spend their lives traveling with Jesus, sharing meals, listening to him teach, watching him perform miracles, asking him to explain parables, walking from village to village. The decision to follow will change the course of their lives. Each step takes them further from the familiar fishing boats and tax collectors booth.
But what surprises me most is how little they know at the outset of this journey. Jesus offers no details of the course they will take. And he is frustratingly vague about the destination they will arrive at. To Simon and Andrew, fishermen by trade, he offers the obtuse destination (or goal) of making them fishers of men, whatever that may mean. James, John, and Matthew don’t even get that. They get the invite with no mention of where they are going or how they will get there. But they follow, stepping into a landscape that is blurry.
There is a focal point. The blurry landscape is the result a sharp focus elsewhere. That focus is on whom they will follow. He offers a navigator. “Follow me.” He will guide them on this journey. First and foremost, they are invited into relationship. They follow a person, not a path. The path is laid out as they follow him. This is the beginning of discipleship, the conviction that I can trust Christ to be a reliable navigator in spite of the blurry landscape ahead.
Recently I had a conversation with a friend about the new direction my life is taking. I told him I wasn’t sure what this will look like in 5-10 years, but I do have a pretty good idea of the next two or three steps I need to take. Seems this is how Jesus navigates. He tells me what I need to know for the next step or two. He beckons me into the blur. He asks me to trust him, to lean into him, to find rest in his well-worn love. He won’t force me to follow. But if I do, I’ll find that blurry landscape to be magnificent indeed.