This week I am posting a series of reflections on discipleship.
‘That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”’ (Mark 1:32-37)
‘That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”’ (Mark 4:35-41)
Jesus models for us what discipleship is about. Everywhere they go, everyone wants a piece of Jesus. Having invited his disciples to follow him – to be with him as he does what he does – Jesus makes deliberate decisions to give them significant time together, away from the crowds. There are lessons here that we need to learn, both about being a disciple and about discipling others.
Firstly, on being a disciple. As Jesus’ disciples are exposed to his life, they find themselves in a vulnerable position, in unfamiliar waters. They are scared because of their incompetence, and embarrassed to have to reveal it.
Secondly, on being someone who disciples others. Jesus gives them his time, fuller access to his life – not just when he is doing things, but even when he is asleep in the boat. He speaks grace and vision into their lives: he stills the storm (grace) and reveals himself as more than just teacher (vision). And he challenges them to move on in their faith (not just bails them out).
Soon enough, Jesus’ disciples move from ‘unconscious incompetence’ to ‘conscious incompetence.’ That is, they are fully aware that they cannot address the situation they find themselves in. Jesus, we’re drowning here! We’re out of our depth! And not just in a storm on the lake: we’re out of our depth in the face of sickness, in the face of demons...
Conscious incompetence is always the next stage in discipleship. When the thing that Jesus has called you to follow him into gets difficult – when it exposes your incompetence, in front of others – do you give up and return to what you already know? Or do you push through to see the kingdom of heaven break in? And when those you are discipling want to give up, do you give up on them? Or do you give them the time and safe space that they need?