What happens when Jesus calls and we say “later”

Have you ever called a friend at like 8:30 on a weeknight, asking them to hang out and they give you this umm’ing and ahh’ing response? ‘I’ve got work in the morning dude, I don’t want a late night’, ’I’ve got an assignment due next week’, ‘I just found out Lost is on Netflix and I’m not leaving the house for 3 days.’

You know what I’m talking about - you could tell them how it wouldn’t kill them to come hang for a few hours, how it would be fun, how they could be home by a reasonable time, how they have plenty of time to write that reflection for uni - but it would sound rude so you don’t say anything. You could probably convince them, but there’s something off about having to persuade a friend to hang out with you.

And yet, there’s definitely been a time in all of our lives when we’ve been on the other end of that phone call. We’ve been the people who can see the value in saying yes - but we can’t get past that blockage. It might feel like too much effort, that we’re ‘tired’, we have stuff to do, or that we’ve been really busy lately and just need to put our feet up.

There is this time when Jesus is walking on the road to Jerusalem and He is speaking to the people around him:

Jesus told someone else to come with him. But the man said, “Lord, let me wait until I bury my father.” Jesus answered, “Let the dead take care of the dead, while you go and tell about God’s kingdom.” Then someone said to Jesus, “I want to go with you, Lord, but first let me go back and take care of things at home.” Jesus answered, “Anyone who starts plowing and keeps looking back isn’t worth a thing to God’s kingdom!” Luke 9:59-62

I can imagine Jesus being frustrated in this story, in the same way we might be frustrated by that friend who flakes a little too often. He knows they want to follow Him, but they limit themselves with small-minded worries. I like to think Jesus would be the guy on the phone to his friend saying, ‘Really? You’ll be fine, just come and hang.’

The best reply they can offer is ‘Yes! But…’ 

Jesus is inviting them on this incredible journey, one that they know they deeply desire - and yet some part of them blocks that immediate and total ‘yes’. In one sense their excuses aren’t shallow, they’re desiring to respect their families. On the other hand though, the gravity of being personally invited by Jesus to follow Him is being blocked by worldly limitations. The best reply they can offer is ‘Yes! But…’

The person in this story who wants to go “take care of things at home” instead of following Jesus immediately acknowledges how much they would like to follow Him. Their internal desire is to say yes, but it’s blocked by a false limitation they have set up for themselves.

This inside desire, of following Jesus in a radically risky way can so often for us be blocked by similar limitations. We can feel called by God to serve and grow in a particular way, yet we let tiredness, busyness or laziness creep in and shut it down.

Jesus desires that your inside desire, your natural disposition - come out and be made alive in your life. That the call to follow Him be responded to with an immediate and enthusiastic ‘yes’ - not despite but because you are busy, tired or stressed.

Whether that call for you is to follow Jesus through serving others, through a stronger prayer life or through seeking the sacraments - we are called to take a little risk, lose a little sleep and fight a little harder to bring those deep yearning desires from the inside out. 

Liam Desic

Liam Grew up poor