Then Jesus said to them all,
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
― LUKE 9:23 (NRSV)
THE DISCIPLE is who Jesus is calling: to all would-be disciples (followers), “Come, follow me,” he is saying, through the annuls of eternity.
The devotee – the disciple – is a follower by necessity, first, and then by choice, second. They have experienced something of an arrest at a soul level. Wherever there is a plain choice involved – for instance, the rich man of Mark 10:17-31 – there is difficulty in being a devotee. The seed of faith falls on hard soil; the Word cannot penetrate the heart – the necessity of that Word.
The devotee cannot live without Jesus. But the devotee is not an addict. They have seen Jesus as the only way they can now live – the only means to life – for all other ‘life’ is darkness and it abides in misery. This is because they have seen, with fresh sight, the glorious kingdom of heaven through their mortal eyes. The scales have fallen, and do keep gradually falling away more and more as more and more is revealed to them.
What is Discipleship and Where Does Spiritual Dryness Fit In?
Everyone gets patches of spiritual dryness; the difference is for the devotee, they cannot continue dry. They have to work their way through it, and that is precisely what discipleship is.
The foreground of discipleship is difficulty. So, it’s the case that a choice for a life of devotion – though it is profoundly meaningful and necessary – is also a choice for a life of acknowledged difficulty – at least as an outsider would see it. You see, the devotee doesn’t see it as a life of difficulty, for whether there is difficulty or ease is irrelevant to them.
But spiritual dryness is of genuine concern to the devotee, and their discipleship – which is their method – is their way back... every single time. Indeed, such a way back as to keep searching and seeking for God is the compulsion to a deeper spiritual intimacy, with God, with oneself, and ultimately a deeper acceptance of others, too.
Discipleship and spiritual dryness go together. One helps the other. Discipleship is the way back to intimacy with God. Dryness is the pressure needed to compel discipleship. The devotee will embrace both.
The Jesus wannabe doesn’t get it that the Christian life is one of utter devotion, because there is now no alternative. Where there is a choice, Christ will always come off second-best to us would-be true disciples. When the Spirit has wrested us from the world, once-and-for-all, however, then there is traction; because there is only one choice that remains: Jesus.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.