Fellow Passengers: This week’s Primary Passage* (John 1:35-51) transports me to mid 80s Louisville, where I was working my way through seminary as a Pizza Hut cook. One of the dishwashers turned me on to his favorite band, an Irish group I’d not paid much attention to up to that time, U2. After closing, as we were cleaning up the kitchen, he’d bring out his boom box, put in a cassette of their debut album, Boy, and sing I Will Follow, at the top of his lungs while he pushed the mop across the floor. Later, I’d befriend a couple from seminary who are probably U2’s biggest followers, Kevin and Holli Rainwater, and they talked me into camping out all night to snare tickets for the Joshua Tree concert. I got to sing I Will Follow at the top of my lungs there in Rupp arena, as Bono includes this song on every tour. Many years later my pastor, John Thomas, gave me a book on U2’s faith, and I learned some of Bono’s history. I learned that we shared some things in common: losing beloved mothers during our formative years, and coming to terms with that through our faith. In fact, I Will Follow is a tribute to Bono’s mother and the love that didn’t die when she died, and the faith that welled up inside him. The references to Amazing Grace are sure signs of the latter, I was blind, I could not see. . . I was lost, I am found. I, too, wrote a song as a tribute to my mother after she died of cancer in the early 80s, but, the fact that I’m now blogging and not packing out major arenas is a sure sign of where the comparison stops.
I wonder what kind of tune the first disciples were singing when they responded to Jesus’ call with I will follow. I also wonder what kind of grief was mixed in with their emerging faith, and how that faith helped them deal with their losses. When they answered the call to follow, they made decisions to leave family behind, to leave community behind, to leave their lifework behind. They left their fathers. They left their mothers. They left their nets. Walk away, walk away, walk away, walk away, I will follow. I imagine these singing Galileans were around the same age as Bono when he lost his mother, or my age when I lost mine. James and John, Andrew and Peter, Phillip and Nathaniel. All boys trying hard to be men. Hearing a call to faith, they were compelled to walk away and start following one who offered them no answers to their questions, save come and see.
My mother never told me this story, but after she died, my neighbor across the street, Mrs. Allen, called me over, and shared with me that when I was born, my mother brought me over to her house, and told her that I was going to be a minister of the gospel. My mom had gotten this message somehow in her prayer life. I don’t think she ever worried that this calling would lead me to walk away from our relationship. In fact, the more I find myself able to walk away from some of the siren calls of the world, the more I find that I’m walking closer to the path that she and my father walked. I know the grief of losing them physically, but I’ve never felt the loss of a shared pathway, a shared journey. It’s a come and see kind of journey, the same as those Galileans. And it’s an amazing grace kind of journey, just like for Bono. It’s enough to make a blogging ex-pizza chef sing at the top of his lungs, I will follow, I will follow.
How about you? Where does this Primary Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment.