When Jesus sent out his disciples, he was kind enough to pair them up two by two. He gave them authority to deal with evil opposition, to which I suppose they may have gulped, eyes wide with fear. But what he didn’t give them was equally disturbing:
He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. Mark 6:8-9
It seems as though Jesus was stacking the deck against them. No money? No food? No extra tunic? Really? This seems like some sort of bizarre hazing ritual.
Or perhaps it was a brilliant way to teach them how to leave behind what they’ve known so that they would have to meet new people and experience new things, on their own terms. I think Jesus was teaching them how to enter new places without relying on their usual bag of tricks, or their charm, or anything other than the stark reality of possibility.
He was teaching them what to bring and what not to bring, but he couldn’t teach them all the same thing, because each one of them needed to discover what their own unique etc was. And they’d only discover it by leaving home with as little as possible.
Sometimes the only way to find your etc is by getting it wrong, or getting lost.
My friend calls this kind of knowing “experiential knowledge.” There is a certain kind of wisdom that is only gained by finding out what you don’t know. I trust people who know what they don’t know.
I wonder if those disciples stumbled more than a few times. They most likely got it wrong more than they got it right.
But I also wonder if, at some point, they experienced the wide-open freedom of releasing the need to know and the need to control their environment. Because they brought nothing other than one another and the power that Jesus anointed them with, they saw and experienced a level of transformation that you don’t get to experience if you insist on bringing your expertise.
You may be in a situation right now that’s brand new, and you have no idea what you have with you that will work, and you feel utterly incompetent. Unprepared. Destined for failure. Afraid.
You need to know something else. Before Jesus sends you anywhere, he asks you to come and be with him, because he wants you.
He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, and to have authority to cast out demons. Mark 3:13-15, emphasis added
Have you ever experienced the thrill of being wanted and invited into something special? It’s so much better than being good at something. It’s so much better than being admired or being successful. It’s also so much more vulnerable and risky.
A few years ago, my son Elijah got a bad rash all over his body, so I took him to urgent care. We read books in the waiting room. I helped him pick out a sticker on the way out. We talked. A few days later, he asked me if we could go back to the doctor’s office.
I smiled. “Why do you want to go back to the doctor’s office?” I asked him.
“I liked being with just you, Dad—just you and me,” he said.
Do you believe it’s possible that Jesus calls you to be with him, primarily because he wants you and wants to be with you?
I’ve been a pastor for more than twenty years, and my experience is that most people believe that they’re an agenda for Jesus. They believe that Jesus just wants to change them, clean them up, and send them out. He’s available for triage when they mess up, but he’s mostly miffed because there’s a whole world out there that needs saving and people’s petty troubles and anxieties are wasting his time.
I am more convinced than ever that what restores us most fully is the belief that Jesus wants us to be with him, exactly as we are and not as we should be, and that he is not in a hurry for us to change right away.
It’s God’s kindness that leads to repentance (see Romans 2:4). Repentance simply means “changing your mind about where you’re going in order to be made whole.” Our wholeness—our restoration—is a result of God’s kindness, not God’s determination that we get it right.
Jesus took these disciples into his life and opened up his humanity to them. He taught them, he laughed with them, he ate with them, and he stayed up late into the night talking to them. He encouraged them. He challenged them. I can imagine each of them opening up like flowers in the springtime.
Determining your own etc—those extra things you’re going to need that I can’t even begin to tell you about, because it has to do with what’s really essential for you; it’s specific to what you’ll need, and only you can discover what that is—is not something you can study for and then pass, like a test.
You’ll only find out your etc by leaving what is familiar and taking with you only that which you discover you need while you’re on the way there. Fortunately, we’re not sent out alone on that journey. And thank goodness, we are called to be with Jesus before we are even sent out.
As you travel your own road toward wholeness, may you come to know that you need only bring your dependence and your trust in the one who calls you to be with him, not because you’re an agenda but because he wants to be with you.
You’ve been reading from Whole by Steve Wiens. For Christians who lament the brokenness in themselves, their neighbors, and the world around them, Whole offers a rallying cry to pursue wholeness together. Continue reading from Whole right now. Listen to Steve on his podcast This Good Word or check out his other book Beginnings: The First Seven Days of the Rest of Your Life.