The end of John contains an image I continue to reflect on as I work on my dissertation in Missional Spirituality and pastoring a church. Jesus looks at Peter and says,
“Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (John 21:18).
I find these statements a bit cryptic, but they touch an issue with which I continue to wrestle. I find that I want to go where I want to go and I want to do what I want to do. Perhaps Peter was that way too. In fact, Jesus said when Peter was younger he would fasten his own belt and go where he wanted to. However, when he grows old someone else will fasten his belt and take him where he does not wish to go. I’m not sure I really like that.
Yet, in trying to allow God’s missional imagination to take hold of me I find places where I don’t really want to be. Being missional, at its core, is allowing God’s life to put on flesh and blood. For years I’ve heard that I am the hands and feet of Jesus. Far too often that statement becomes some type of Christian cliche. We say it, but we really don’t allow it to be a reality.
What I find is that God is leads me to where I do not want to go. I want to be honest in that. Following Jesus doesn’t mean that life is going to go the way I want it to go, or that I will be where I want to be. It means that I will seek God’s will and allow his will to be done in my life.
Jesus is the model. In the garden, it was evident the cross was not where he was wanting to go (see also John 12:22-28). One of the things I am beginning to learn is that it is okay to go where you do not want to go. I think it is even okay to say that. The reason why is because you are trying your best to follow Jesus whatever that means. Of course, it might be where you want to go, but then it might not be either.
Allowing Jesus to lead me to where I don’t want to go is a challenge in my life. It is also a challenge in the church. I do not think our churches can be missional until we deal with our reluctance to be led by Jesus to wherever Jesus is calling us to go. One of the requirements of being missional is following Jesus in God’s mission.