For the last nine years I’ve had the privilege of going up to northern Hungary for a few days to get away for a period of renewal. Last week was 2020’s version. On the first day, my friend Tom and I went for a five hour hike up to the peak of Tót-hegyes.
As we made our way out of the village, a dog joined us. I had been told about him; a young enthusiastic pup whose name sounded like ‘Choppy’. He immediately found a stick and laid it in our path as we began our hike. We took turns picking it up and throwing it or flicking it with our walking stick for the first fifteen minutes or so. I figured he’d tire soon. But he didn’t.
In fact, he walked with us for the first hour, then the second, never giving up on the stick even when we didn’t engage. By the time we reached the peak of the mountain, he was still there, stick in mouth, ready to play.
It occurred to me as I looked at his anxious face that he hadn’t had any plans for the day. He hadn’t known he would climb four miles up a mountain. He hadn’t prepared by drinking water or bringing energy bars. He hadn’t mapped his course out ahead of time. Choppy just found a pair of companions who were semi-kind to him and followed them wherever they went. In the end, he only went because he had someone to follow.
In fact, as far as I could tell, his only objective on our hike was to be with us. Sure, he wanted to play with the stick. But he followed even after we hadn’t thrown the stick for over an hour.
What if that were our main objective? As disciples of Jesus, what if just being with Jesus overshadowed everything else?
Of course, the dog didn’t have much else to do. He had no sermons to prep, no business deals to complete, no final exams to study for. That dog was just doing what most dogs in his situation do.
That, of course, is true. He was just being a dog. But I’m convinced God has surrounded us with simpler beings in order to remind us to simplify. Jesus’ words to his disciples about having faith like a child is the prime example.
In the end, Choppy reminded me of Jesus’ example of being with the Father. We often skip over them, but the Gospels are full of examples of Jesus withdrawing in order to be with the Father.
- …Jesus withdrew from that place (Matthew 12:15)
- When Jesus heard what happened, he withdrew… (Matthew 14:13)
- Jesus then left them and went away. (Matthew 16:4)
Jesus’ main priority was being with the Father. Consider some of Jesus’ words:
- Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? (Luke 2:49)
- And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent…(John 17:3)
Jesus’ primary goal was to be with the Father and to do his will. He modeled it. And he taught his followers to do the same:
- Follow me… (Matthew 4:19)
- Abide in me, and I in you…(John 15:4)
- If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.(Matthew 16:24)
- And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:29)
We have the tendency to look at that last verse and imagine doing good things, or doing things like Jesus did. “Doing” is so engrained in our thinking about following Jesus. But I imagine Jesus is instructing us to be more like Choppy – just follow where the Master is going and everything else will follow.
What if, like Choppy, we as Christians were known for
doing what we do being who we are – followers of Jesus?