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?