I started watching a YouTube documentary last night by accident – not entirely sure how I got there, but this was a film about a young Roman Catholic sister from Derry, N Ireland, who discovered an inexplicable call from God to follow him and abandon her life to this calling. A lively, joyful and colourful character, footage tracks what seemed to me to be a remarkable transformation and a deep spiritual growth over the period of years the documentary covers.
What is so significant about this Sister, Clare Crockett, quite apart from the fact that she prematurely lost her life in an Ecuadorian earthquake when the school she was teaching at collapsed, was this young womans passion, enthusiasm and dedication to the Lord. Joyful, sacrificial, and, as the title of the film affirms, a pure example of a life that was ‘All or Nothing’. She gave up a promising TV/film career to follow this sense of vocation.
I won’t tell the whole story – you can watch it yourself – but I was brought to moments of deep reflection on my own life. There seemed to be traces of parallel from her story which touched my own story and helped me reconnect with a question I’ve been asking of late.
I’ve mentioned before on this blog that my conversion to Christ was ‘out of the blue’ – in a very short space of time the Lord captured my heart and attention, and my conversion was very much a Damascus Road. I saw in this Sister many of the passions I held (and, in some ways still hold) regards to passion for the Lord, the gospel and the mission of the church. I saw that same strong streak of abandonment to his purposes that I can trace through parts of my own story. I certainly identified with her longing for a deeper devotion to Christ, a deeper love for people, and a desire to live sacrificially.
I’ve found myself in recent days and weeks being drawn into a particular conversation with God, especially as I’m in a season of evaluating my ‘Personal Way of Life’ – how my new monastic commitments are expressed, and how vows of Simplicity, Purity and Obedience look in these days for me as a follower of Jesus, a father, a husband, friend and pastor.
With others, I’ve been talking about how easy it is to settle for a lesser vision in our discipleship and devotion to the purposes of Christ. I’m increasingly aware that in some places we’re in a culture where suggesting prayer and scripture reading as a base for discipleship is a step beyond what folks are prepared to really take on board.
I’m not at all convinced that the way forward for the body of Christ is to ‘take off the discipleship yoke’ and mingle with the crowd. On the contrary, I’m convinced that the discipleship bar first has to be set, then raised. This has to begin with an encounter with God in prayer, scripture and in a whole variety of means. This, of course, is what the ancient monastics have consistently witnessed to…there is an ongoing path to walk, another journey to take.
It’s like Odessius, who, having struggled his way back home, to his desired destination, then discovers that there is a second journey which is even more significant than the first. It is a journey where he must take all that has been known and familiar thus far, and start out again. That either terrifies you or excites you. It will either reveal the extent of your ‘can’t be bothered’ or call you onward.
The call to be a disciple doesn’t end with the call. That’s the first journey. The second is the path deeper into Christ, and a willingness to give it all over… ‘All or nothing!’ This is not a path of dualistic thinking, either/ors…rather, it’s one where we enter into that simple realisation that to be in Christ is to enter into a whole new world of possibility!