“Off,” my friend’s toddler demanded, jabbing her fingers toward my shoes. “Off!”
I smiled at her cautiously.
The lights were dimmed for the beginning of our church gathering, as worship music flowed throughout room. She grinned as I considered her request, and began bouncing, inviting me into a dance I was not sure I wanted to do, shoeless, in the dark room surrounded by people – some I knew and others I didn’t.
She spun her bare feet around the carpet, and I wished my hesitation away.
When Jesus first called the disciples to be with Him in Luke 5:11, “…they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed Him.” These men left their jobs and their property, their boats and therefore their livelihoods as fishermen. When they agreed to follow Christ, they left safety, comfort, and the relationships that had defined them all their lives. Jesus would later tell them that He would send them out like sheep among wolves; not a fun thing, or a safe thing. They stepped into total abandonment for the glory of Christ.
In the world we live in, we are told to protect ourselves. My immediate reaction to my little friend’s request was concern for my appearance. We feel the need for safe boundaries and successful lives, strong educations and competitive jobs. We are encouraged to entertain ourselves, to revel in ourselves, to enjoy ourselves, and make ourselves into whatever will make us most happy.
Christ tells us to leave ourselves. Actually, He tells us to die to ourselves. He tells us that if we want to be with Him to pick up our cross – an instrument of torturous death, and follow Him. (Luke 9:23)
These moves of sacrifice seem pretty horrible. But when we step into reckless abandonment – that is, not note-takers, or bystanders, but followers – something wonderful happens. Comfort and certainty are no longer our concerns.
Instead, life with Christ is free.
It becomes a dance full of overwhelming mercy, and it is pure delight.
So I slipped off my shoes, and began bouncing and holding hands and dancing with my friend, worshipping our Lord, disregarding the people around us. “Off,” He tells us. “Off, and away with the things that distract you from me. I am making all things new” (Isaiah 58:6, Rev. 21:5).