Life in Focus

Where following Jesus and Every Day Life Intersect

The Thrill of Letting God Disrupt Your Patterns

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San Francisco’s Coit Tower stands 210 feet tall atop Telegraph Hill. As one of the city’s best-known landmarks, it was a regular stop for my parents with out of town guests during my childhood. I still remember tumbling out of our station wagon with my four siblings, my mom and whatever visitors happened to be getting the grand tour. My dad would patiently drive in circles through the packed parking lot as we took in the panoramic view. There was an elevator that went to the top of the tower, but we never made the ascent. With the size of our group and the number of tourists waiting in line, we never had the time to fit it in with all of the other sights. We figured the view from the bottom was good enough—even with the trees and bushes partially obstructing it.

Although I’ve lived in the Bay Area most of my life, it was not until a recent visit to San Francisco that I rode the elevator to the top of Coit Tower with my son.  The 360-degree view of the city and all the surrounding areas was worth the time and effort. In one direction, the tall buildings of the financial district rose up in front of the green waters of the bay. Moving a little further around, I could see the iconic towers of the Golden Gate Bridge and the red brick buildings of Ghiradelli Square. Just beyond that, Alcatraz Island stood sentinel in the waters just beyond Fisherman’s Wharf.   A little further to our right, the Bay Bridge intersected Yerba Buena Island before continuing across to the city. The view from the bottom paled in comparison.

Sometimes I wonder if we treat our faith like tourists hitting the highlights in a big city. We breeze through a lot of opportunities for growth without engaging them fully or delving deeply. We hear sermons or read devotionals and declare they are “good” but never make time to incorporate the truth we’re learning into our lives.  We’re content to make a loop through the parking lot and catch the view from below, not wanting to inconvenience ourselves with the time, effort and cost required to ascend the tower and see the view. We have routines that we follow and agendas to keep. We like what is predictable and manageable for our schedules and we get complacent.  Or we pack our weeks so full there isn’t time to engage in anything deeply and we’re hesitant to relinquish any of our precious “free time.”

Inviting God to do new things feels disruptive to our carefully ordered lives. We fear it will be messy and complicated to serve in new places with different people. Sometimes we’re afraid to let God use our gifts in new ways because the results are unpredictable. Although we know He wants to stretch us continually, it just doesn’t seem worth the cost. The time and effort we’d have to expend deter us from pressing on.

Even people who met Jesus face to face struggled with these issues. The gospel of Luke tells the story of three different people who encountered Jesus and claimed they wanted to follow Him. All three ended up turning away when they realized how disruptive it would be to their lives. You can read about them in Luke 9:57-62.

Contrasting that is the story of Jesus calling his first disciples, Peter, James and John. Luke’s gospel describes a day when Jesus preached to the people on the shore of the Lake of Gennesaret as He stood in the boat of a fisherman named Peter. After working all night and catching nothing, Peter and his fishing partners, James and John, sat and listened to Jesus’ teaching. Once He was finished teaching, Jesus directed them to push out from shore and cast their nets even though they’d been unsuccessful the night before. Instead of balking at instructions from a non-fisherman, the men listened to Jesus and caught so many fish their boats began to sink. Their willingness to obey Him brought amazing results and revealed Jesus was no ordinary man.   After the miraculous catch of fish, He invited the three to follow Him. They responded in a way that humbles and inspires me:

“So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:11, NIV)

Peter, James and John abandoned their predictable lives and began the adventure of walking with Jesus. Their willingness allowed Him to use them in powerful ways. Think what they would have missed if they’d declined when Jesus asked them to follow Him.

Are you letting the predictable patterns of your life keep you from something new Jesus wants to do in and through you? Summer is a good time to evaluate your schedule for the coming year and to consider new opportunities. Is it time to step out of your comfort zone and get involved in something different? Is it time to test out that spiritual gift that’s been simmering on the back burner? Maybe you need to relinquish some of your cherished free time to volunteer or meet a need. Maybe it’s time to evaluate your finances and consider how you can bless others and honor God in new ways.

Will you trust God enough to pray and invite Him to stretch you in a new way? Will you let Him break you out of your routine and discover more joy? The view from the parking lot is nice, but the view from the top is beyond compare. It’s just a matter of letting Him change your vantage point. Are you ready to let Him take you there?

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Author: mmccullum

Marybeth McCullum enjoys writing and blogging about her Christian faith and how it intersects with everyday life. Her goal in every post is to encourage, challenge and inspire her readers. She is in her 10th year at CPC's Focused Living Women's Bible study and currently serves as Coordinator. She also writes a regular blog and speaks occasionally. You can find her page on Facebook at: Marybeth Mc Cullum- Author. Learn more about her other endeavors at marybethmccullum.com.

3 thoughts on “The Thrill of Letting God Disrupt Your Patterns

  1. Thanks for this great illustration Marybeth! The actions of these three disciples as depicted in Luke reminded me of the similar story as told in Matthew 4. Notice how Peter and his brother Andrew are already casting their net into the lake but James and John are sitting in their boat preparing their nets. We often look at Peter as the impetuous one who jumps and then looks. I see him being portrayed that way immediately when he is introduced in Matthew’s gospel. He is not “preparing” but instead he is “casting” away! I am not exactly sure what to make of this, probably both are good, but eventually we need to cast and stop preparing. Have a great day!

    Matthew 4:
    18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.

    21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

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  2. As always, such a great illustration of how we often practice our faith from the “parking lot” instead of the top of the tower. I love that analogy! Aside from stretching ourselves further by practicing/applying what we learn in prayer and Bible study, I also find it helps me to stay with the same lesson, verse, devotion, passage etc. for as long as it is meaningful to me, instead of trying to cover “a lesson a day”. “Be still and know that I am God” – I can spend months on that one.

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    • I agree- we are often so busy rushing to the next lesson/ reading/ devotional/ sermon, etc that we don’t fully grasp or apply the one right in front of us. Somehow, God seems to present looping themes in my life to remind me where He wants me to focus. As always, thanks for your thoughtful comment.

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