“Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.” (Mark 1:18)
The place looks familiar. There is a swing set in the background and a metal merry-go-round in the middle. No one is on the playground, and everything is still and quiet, like that audible quiet one hears when it is snowing.
I look around, and there is Jesus, standing in the middle of the playground. His dancing eyes are on me. His smile is full of delight and joy. His arms are outstretched toward me.
My heart lurches forward in response to His love. Without thinking, my arms reach out to Him. His pull is so magnetic and electrifying.
But my feet. Why can’t I take a step toward Jesus?
I stand on the edge of the playground. The Kingdom of Heaven that “is at hand” is right before my eyes. I want, more than anything, to run to Him. But it is as if my feet are cemented in place. I look down, and the thinnest, but strongest, strings are tied around my ankles. And the strings are attached to several, solid, metal bolts in the ground. These bolts surround me, as if holding me prisoner.
How can I follow the Lord, with the abandon of the disciples, when I can’t move an inch? How can I set out, like Jonah, for my own Nineveh to share the good news with others? How can I give Him my fiat, like Mary, and “let it be to me according to [His] word”?
Fear rushes through my body. With panic in my eyes, I look to Jesus for help. Without a word, but with unconditional love in His eyes, He shows me that the bolts tethered to my ankles represent fear, doubt, perfectionism, and other burdens that hold me back from giving my yes to Him with the abandon of the disciples, the trust of Jonah, and the faith of Mary.
Jesus continues to stretch out His arms to me, and I desperately try to grab hold of His hands. But no matter how far I reach out with my upper body, I can’t get close to Him.
What do I need to do, Lord? How can I untie these knots? Give me the key! Give me the formula! I will do anything, Lord.
No matter what I try, though, the burdens tied around my ankles remain. Sometimes they feel looser, when I am participating in the Sacraments and prioritizing prayer. But they don’t go away completely, and I realize that I cannot pray, read, or serve my way out of this. I am too weak, too little to do this on my own.
“Make known to me your ways, Lord … for you are God my savior, for you I wait all the day long.” (Psalm 25:4-5)
As I pray and wait, I wonder how long Jesus will wait for me. Will He move onto someone else, who can respond more quickly than me? Then, I remember Jonah’s initial response to God. It wasn’t so immediate or obedient. But God gave him another chance. Maybe God’s patience is much greater than I realize.
Then, I look up at Jesus again, and I notice that He is walking toward me, with His hand still outstretched. The space between us decreases with each step He takes. Jesus is approaching me!
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