Updated: Aug 14
“Come, follow me.” It’s Jesus’ invitation to the people who would be his first disciples. Little did they know where following the man from Nazareth would lead them. That decision to drop their fishing nets or their stonemason mallet or their tax-collecting purse was one that would lead to another decision and another and another until they found themselves so transformed by a life of discipleship with Christ that the world couldn’t help but notice and be compelled to do likewise. One simple, small decision can do that: change the world.
On this Ash Wednesday that signals the start of Lent, a 40-day season of examining one’s life of discipleship with Christ, I’m thinking of Steve Lucas. Rev. Lucas was the senior pastor of a church where I served as the youth minister (Associate Pastor to Youth & Families). He became my mentor, and was a friend and advocate for me at a liminal time in my mid-twenties life. I was balancing seminary studies and pastoral ministry with teenagers, a weekly commute between Forth Worth and Austin, church life and a social life outside of the congregation, all while kneading out a calling to serve the Church in some capacity.
Sometimes Steve would invite me into his office to visit. I’ll never forget this one day when he was sitting in his rocking chair sharing unsolicited counsel with me as I sat on his couch listening. I guess I had been talking about the state of my life, maybe expressing anxiousness over everything I was carrying and what the future might hold. Steve held his hands up with his two pointer fingers side by side aimed at the ceiling, and he told me, “One decision in your life will take you in a certain direction. It might not seem like it’s a big deal, but it will put you on a particular path.” Then he separated his hands and placed one at his side, keeping his attention on the one still pointing upward. “From there you’ll make another decision, and that will take you in another direction.” His pointer finger moved across his chest, remaining at attention. “That will lead you to make another decision until the path you’re on is irrevocable. There’s no way to tell where those cumulative decisions will lead you, but each one has implications for your future. You just need to determine the most faithful decision to make today and take it from there.” It was such simple perspective, but it stuck with me. It not only made me appreciate the power of each day’s decision-making; it forced me to examine my discipleship with Christ as the foundation for all of my decisions rather than as a spiritual path that can be compartmentalized from the whole of my daily living.
Steve died a couple of Fridays ago. He was only 60 years old. Losing him so soon in this life might have been avoided had Steve been able to dodge the weight of the world that led him to make a series of self-destructive decisions. I do not fault him for that. I mourn that my colleague, friend, and mentor is gone too soon, and I cherish the memory I have of him frozen in my mind as an imperfect follower of Jesus trying to help another imperfect disciple get from Point A to Point B. I’m still learning from him, still trying to make the most faithful decisions I can, still hoping I’m squarely on the path God intends for this life that is uniquely mine, but inextricably bound with the whole world. As Steve taught me in life and now in death, we’re all doing our best, and Jesus is with us every step of the way, inviting us to come and follow him no matter how far off the path we may fear we have wandered.
Thanks, Steve. Rest now, good and faithful follower of Jesus. I’m so glad you decided to be my friend.