Fear, Family and Following Jesus

On Mondays, we fast and pray over lunch for men and women to be shaped by God to more fully show His unique image, and for marriages to those who desire them.

Last weekend, I had a zillion family events: my brother and (new) sister-in-law’s wedding, multiple big dinners with the extended family and another brother preaching at my parents’ home church on the wedding weekend.

Going into the weekend, I was convinced of a lot of scary things. Anxious that I’d get lost in the shuffle. Terrified that my mix of emotions would erupt at the most inconvenient time. Afraid that I’d be so consumed with my own emotional stability that I’d only think about myself and act weird around everyone else. Sure that my family feels awkward about my inexplicable life. Convinced that I have to be insistently loud in order to be heard by people who just don’t get it when it comes to unsought singleness. Scared that no one really sees me an adult but as someone stuck repeating age 26 until I finally get married, and everyone can exhale. (For the record, none of these scary things happened. My family was so wonderfully loving. And no one made any unfunny jokes about me being the last one standing. #miracle).

I know those fears are mostly rooted in lies, but sometimes they feel really true. In this mix, I did realize that I had a lot of emotional distress about trying to ensure that I still have my family’s deep approval of me personally as an unmarried adult child, and more broadly, of unsought celibate singleness as an equally valid and equally adult path for believers.  During this mess of emotions and fears, I was reading in the early part of Mark’s gospel when Jesus calls the first disciples (Mark 1:16-20):

Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.

I never noticed the last phrase but it stopped me in my tracks as I realized what it said… James and John basically walked out of the family business when Jesus called them. And their father was still standing there with the other employees. Wow, how did I miss this before?  A few random thoughts…

  • Trust and obey: When the voice of Jesus comes, we are called to leave what we’re doing and who we’re with and simply follow.

  • I’m part of my family, but they are not my primary identity. Wanting my family to deeply see and affirm me isn’t wrong, but they aren’t my primary audience or the source of my worth. My emotional distress probably points to deeper issues in my heart than about my family itself.
  • I often think of “leave and cleave” as a marriage-centric lesson with the implicit assumption that I don’t have to exercise that skill right now. Yet perhaps, as passage reminded me, I need to start learning that lesson now with Jesus. Leaving parents and parental approval is harder for some, but as believers and the bride of Christ, we’re all called into a foundational, primary relationship with Jesus above all human relationships.
  • Family, Jesus-Style: Jesus himself echoes this idea when He dismantles the traditional conception of family at the end of Mark 3. He doesn’t actually destroy the concept of family, but instead exponentially expands the idea of family into a gloriously crazy clan where the common tie is not biology but those who do God’s will (implying relationship with the Father). And that, I think, is a comfort to those of us who aren’t raising biological families. It’s also a challenge to love and be loved by this crazy new kind of family called the church.

What a scary, crazy adventure! And what a privilege to do it with the family that He’s given us through His body, the church. May each of us be encouraged this week to cleave more closely to Jesus and to follow His loving voice into the adventures ahead.

In His Grace,


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8 Responses to Fear, Family and Following Jesus

  1. Neelam says:

    Amy -Thanks for keeping it real. So appreciate that about you. Yes, letting go of our family’s ideals (and approval) of where we should be when we’re not there (yet) is hard. Am too, learning to lean more deeply on Christ’s love.

    Thanks again for you being you. 🙂
    And thanks Laura for your very real and poignant thoughts as well!

  2. Daniela says:

    Well said!

  3. Karis says:

    Ditto on not realizing Mr. Zebedee was left standing in the boat! Interesting. A big Amen to the idea of our family really being God’s family–those who do His will. Our churches are still very nuclear-family-centric, but we singles can really help promote and live out the idea that we are in fact a BIG FAMILY to each other. Even those with spouses and children need a greater community to belong to, and with the US being the least interdependent nation, we really need to encourage/develop this in the Church, to the good of individuals as well as those inside AND outside of it!

  4. Micah K. says:

    This was really good!

  5. Laura says:

    This is soooooo timely right now! After a generic convo with my father 2 days ago led to him commenting on how I shouldn’t endeavor to be a wife & mother (and stay home to care for everyone)…and how my only prospects for marriage these days would be divorced men (since I’m in my mid 30’s), I truly needed to hear how sometimes we must leave our families’ ideas/assumptions for us behind, and follow JESUS…and His ideas for us. I never realized before how James & John left their family business AND their father to follow Jesus. It must’ve been very hard on their family and father, but their faith in Christ trumped family ties. While I don’t want to abandon my family or break ties with them (just yet, ha!) I also see the importance of being WILLING TO let Jesus call the shots and determine my identity and purpose and future, instead of being blown and tossed about by every comment made by those who have their OWN agendas for my life. Thanks so much for your timely insights, Amy. And your courage to post them!
    Praying for your future as well,

    • fast. pray. says:

      wow! it’s so neat to see how God has been moving your story forward in this way, and so lucky that fp go to be part of that! and it’s so true…the willingness is the thing, regardless of what he actually asks of us in the end 🙂

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