The first morning we gathered up swimsuits, towels and water toys for a trip to their great-grandmother’s (“Gran-Gran”) in a subdivision with a pool at the community center. We nabbed the pool pass off her wall and headed down the shady lane with mounting excitement only to find a sign posted on the gate to the pool: “The pool is temporarily closed due to health concerns.”
They did as well as they could, for a five-year-old and a two-year-old, at hiding their disappointment, but on the trip home Keith and I were desperately trying to come up with a solution. Finally we hit upon one. Our neighbor owns a veterinary supply business. Many of his products come in bright blue plastic barrels slightly larger than 55 gallon drums, which he empties as he fills smaller bottles for his customers. He often gives us the empties which we wash out and use for all sorts of things. We happened to have two that were cut down to about two feet deep.
Granddad rolled those tubs out to the yard in the shade of the huge live oaks on the west side of the house and filled them with water. Then we divvied up plastic cups and water guns and plopped a little boy in each tub along with all the paraphernalia. As children will, especially kids as bright as these, they soon had a good game or two going, and we grandparents managed to stay out of the way of most of the water, if not all of it, especially those extra long squirts from the water guns.
Then Silas, the older boy, came up with the best game, the one that splashed the most water and got him the wettest. He stood up as tall as he could, and to the cry of “Cowabunga!” lifted both feet in a big jump and landed on his seat in the tub. The water displacement alone was awesome, especially for such a skinny little boy. He usually wound up with his head barely above the water, even choking on it occasionally. Good thing those tubs were well-washed.
Judah adores his big brother. If Silas does it, he does it. If Silas says it, he says it too. Or at least tries. But he is not without at least some measure of caution. I watched as he considered his brother’s maniacal call and monumental splash. He seemed to weigh things for a moment and then finally came to a decision. “Cowabunda!” he cried, which was a little easier to say, then jumped up in the air, landing on his feet and squatting carefully in his own little blue tub. Even being several inches shorter, more of him stayed out of the water and the splash was much less. He may have imitated his brother’s actions, but he had not made the same commitment.
And that is often where our Christianity stops. We make a good show of it, but the heart isn’t there. When the time of sacrifice comes, when we might end up floundering in deep water, it’s asking too much. Which is exactly what the Lord does ask for—everything.
In those classic commitment passages of Luke 9 and 14, he makes it plain that nothing can be more important to you than he is. Not comfort and convenience (9:57,58); not family (9:59,60; 14:20); not business (14:18); not possessions (14:19); nothing can get in the way. Then we have one that I had a hard time figuring out.
Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Luke 9:61. We already have several references to family relationships, especially when you add “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,” and the like. Then I remembered the call of Elisha. He too asked Elijah if he could go home and kiss his parents goodbye, and yes, Elijah allowed him to not only do that, but to prepare a feast with the very oxen he had been plowing with at his call (1 Kgs 19:19-21). Surely Jesus was referring to this well-known bit of Jewish history when he said, “No, you cannot go home and say goodbye.”
So perhaps it means, “I am even more important than a great prophet like Elijah,” the one most Jews considered the greatest prophet of all. To make such an assertion was astounding, and to follow Jesus as he required meant one accepted that claim too. Yes, Jesus asked for it all, even placing your social and religious life on the line by accepting his teaching and claims.
You can’t dip your toes in the water and claim to be his disciple. You have to take the plunge, even if it means landing hard and choking on the water when you do. If you’re scared of making waves in your little blue tub of a world, chances are you have never made the commitment you should have.
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels, Luke 9:23-26.