Another excerpt from my hopefully-soon-to-be-published book Taking Off My Comfortable Clothes.
After I moved to the Little Portion Hermitage and made my three-year commitment to poverty, chastity, and obedience, I put on the clothing of a monk-a brown, one-piece hooded robe called a “habit.” That habit was a concrete reminder that the way I walked, worked and worshiped was about to change.
Having grown up in Southern California wearing either shorts or Levi’s most of the year, learning to walk in a long, dress-like garment that nearly touched the floor took some practice. John Michael gave me detailed instructions on how walk up and down stairs, get in and out of cars gracefully, and even ride a camel. Moreover, the way I carried myself did not go unnoticed by those I went to church with at Berryville First Assembly of God in Arkansas.
Not long after I left the community, our church had a ceremony for the Honor Stars – those girls around twelve years old who have completed the Missionettes program (Missionettes is the Christian version of the Girl Scouts.) They all came to church one night in long gowns, and had to walk up a couple of stairs in order to reach the platform. While I was standing in the back talking to one of the mothers, her daughter came up to me, and in a hushed tone said, “Jim, how do you walk up stairs in a long dress?” Without words, I showed her how to maneuver her dress modestly, and she imitated the feat perfectly, climbing onto the platform without a hitch. I’m still amused that she asked me and not her mother! The scene begs the question: Are people asking your advice on how to walk in Christ? It was obvious that this girl had never seen her mother in a floor-length gown, but she had seen me in something similar. Therefore, she sought the advice of one whose walk and behavior was something she needed to emulate. If people are not asking our advice in areas of our faith, we need to wonder if we are showing them enough of our life for them to want to imitate it.
1 John 2:6 says,
“Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”
When we first become Christians, we may spend time asking “What would Jesus do?” because walking like Jesus is not something we are used to doing. When I first attempted to walk up a flight of stairs in my new habit, I had to think about my moves so that I didn’t fall on my face. But after a while walking like Jesus, like walking up stairs in a habit, becomes our first nature. Our spirit knows what Jesus would do and does it.
The Greek word for “walk” in 1 John 2:6 is peripateo, which means “a designation for conduct of life.” Peripatetic is a philosophy or the teaching method of Aristotle, who would teach while walking about the Lyceum in Athens. Therefore, a better translation of this passage might be, “Whoever claims to live in him must designate the conduct of his life as Jesus did.”
Are we conducting our lives as Jesus did, and by doing so, living a life that is worthy of imitation (1 Cor. 11:1)? A young girl sought my advice because she had seen me handle a situation she was about to encounter. Others have sought my advice because of the way they have heard me handle the Word of God. Is our walk leading people to seek our counsel on how to live for Christ? The hard question we should all ask ourselves is, “What am I teaching in the way I conduct my life?”
“If people are not asking our advice in areas of our faith, we need to wonder if we are showing them enough of our life for them to want to imitate it.”
This is convicting to me, but perhaps not in the way you meant for it to be. I tend to get frustrated because it often seems that I’m a magnet for needy people… if they need counsel from the Word, they come to me. If they need a friend, they come to me. If they need prayer, they come to me. It seems like when someone new enters our fellowship, if they have a problem, somehow they always zero in on me. I know I should feel blessed and honored, but lately I’ve felt neither of those things. I’ve felt frustrated and spread too thin. But reading your thoughts on emulating Christ, I realize that I should quit complaining and be thankful that maybe they’re able to see past Heather, and see Jesus in her. And my complaining certainly isn’t very Jesus-like, is it?
Thanks for a much needed dose of conviction, Jim.
Your complaining may not be like Jesus, but it is sure like the rest of us who are striving to be like Jesus!
I think people are attracted to the compassionate spirit they sense in you. Sometimes people will crave a certain food because their body knows they need a particular nutritional element found in that food. Likewise, I think sometimes people are attracted to others because they sense something that offers them spiritual nutrition. However, always be aware of people who are taking from you for selfish reasons. Fior instance, those who are too lazy to feed themselves, or are looking for approval of their selfish ways, or just want to complain to a sympathetic ear without bothering to change. But I think you have something relevant to offer people, and perhaps God is sending them your way because He knows they will be taken care of in a manner He would approve of. Its just a thought.
Thanks for your consistent and positive comments about my blog. It good to know my experiences, struggles and thoughts about God are having a positive affect in the lives of others.
Having walked in a habit, I know EXACTLY what you mean. I really loved the metaphor of how that girl asked you how to walk and our walk in Christ. Wonderful connection.
It’s my heart’s desire to ““walk a life worthy of the calling I have received” . Sometimes I stumble and sometimes I fall, but thanks to Jesus, I press on.
“What am I teaching in the way I conduct my life?”…I hope I’m teaching kindness, gentleness, patience…Oh that the world might see a little of Jesus in me, that too is my heart’s cry.
Thanks for leading us to ask questions about our faith walk.
Had to come back here this afternoon. One of the verses we focused on this morning was Ephesians 5:15-16… “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” We focused a lot on how we are to walk like Jesus. The whole time my mind kept running back to a mental picture of you with that little girl… teaching her how to walk, and the things we talked about here. 🙂
Thanks for your kind words. I pray that there is an element of truth to them, although some days it’s easier to believe than others. Anyway, thank you for being a Barnabas. 🙂
Ouch Halleluia! What a great challenge!