When I was living in Viet Nam as a young person who never thought that he or his family could escape the Communist regime, I often asked myself why my father never give in to the ideology. There were times when I resented his decision and thought to myself that he was stubborn and out of touch because his decision cost us the ability to advance in a close-minded society. Throughout my childhood, you had to do your best to join and be a part of the Communist Party — since the country is a socialist regime that is ruled by the one-party system — in order to seek any special or privileged access and favor. Indeed, many people had done many horrible things to gain access to this lifestyle, even to the point of spying, selling out, and making up lies against others to prove their worthiness. Nevertheless, my father and our family never joined the apparent route of social advancement.
To be honest, I was envious of the things that some of my neighbors had because they belonged to the Party. I was jealous of those who had special privileges and easier lifestyles, and how I wished to have some of them, too. I knew I was poor and an outcast because we never gave ourselves fully into the ideology and its totalitarian and dictatorial overreach. As a child, I did not understand my father’s integrity and his understanding of the Communist Party‘s evils, corruptions, and hypocrisies. I only wanted to see the immediate, quantifiable, humanistic, political, and worldly benefits instead of being firm on values.
As a matter of fact, when my father was imprisoned after the war, many of my mother’s friends and extended family members asked her to leave him because they told her that he would not have any future in the new regime. My mother was tempted and advised by many but she chose to be faithful to my father because she always had and continues to remain faithful to her marriage vows. We had to struggle to find ways to survive and live without the favors of the government due to my mother and father’s non-willingness to conform to the Communist ideology. Nevertheless, both of my parents always remain true to their values and integrity. I remembered one time asking my mother why she chose my father, and she simply replied, “Because your dad is a man of his word!” In those few words, my mother spoke much to me about my father and their joint value system.
At times, we are tempted to give in to whatever the world is telling us in order to be successful and be accepted at all costs. Many times, many people have traded their values, beliefs, dignity, and integrity, hence losing who they are and becoming someone besides themselves. Even the Lord Jesus Christ warned us about this in Matthew 16:26. Really, what good it is to gain the whole world but lose one’s soul? This is such a direct and stern warning from our Lord Himself, but not many are willing to heed His directive because many are still trying to seek their worth, value, identity, and belonging by what the populace, media, influential, or others desired or wanted them to be instead of Christ Jesus.
Furthermore, the saddest reality is when one sets out to change others by increasing his or her influence but never takes the time to change his or herself as made in the image and likeness of God. We get ambitious, impatient, or controlling in wanting to have things the ways we like them to be instead of allowing ourselves to seek what it means to be the people of faith. Too many of us have spent our whole lives trying to become everything for everyone instead of the One who loves us for who we truly are deep from within! Even though we can lie to everyone else, even our very own outer or superficial selves, that we have everything and are “happy,” our souls remain empty and without substance because it is never content. Our soul and heart of heart can only be filled with the infinite love of God because He has created us out of His infinite love, and our inner being yearns for Him — and nothing else that is finite and worldly can ever fill it!
Following the Lord and living our faith has always been an adventure of many blessings, even in the midst of all the unknowns, for those who are willing to take the risks. The Lord always asked His disciples back in the past — as well as us in the present moment — to trust Him, to cast our nets into the deep, and to come and follow Him in an adventure of radical discipleship. Even though there will be challenges just like those who followed Him in the past, we are never alone because He promised to be with us always. It is so important to know that we walk on the path of discipleship, not by ourselves or through our own initiatives, but because the Lord has called us to Himself. We walk our journey of faith because He walks with us. Most important of all, it is because He calls us to follow Him! Even though the trials and hardships are there, and we will be kicking and screaming at times, the journey will make us stronger as we become more dependent and grounded in Him and His faithfulness.
In a day and age where so many companies, services, organizations, and voices are trying to win our attention, the voice of God calling us often gets muffled out. When it seems so easy to have things our way in a consumeristic society as long as we have the means or ways to do so, true discipleship is never about us having the Lord serving our needs but we letting go of our nets, current ways or stations in life, to truly follow Him. Discipleship can only happen when we learn to sit at the feet of the Teacher to listen and learn from Him! That means that even though we might be busy with many things, responsibilities, and duties, we know that they are all secondaries to the true life-giving spiritual life. We are free when we are able to receive from His goodness and generosity, as well as follow Him in a radical trusting and loving relationship.
So, let us ask ourselves whether we truly believe, allow, and open ourselves up to God‘s generosity and guidance beyond our imaginations. Are we willing to let go of our comfort zone, castle, or things that we have built for ourselves in order to follow Him? Are willing to let Him tell us who we truly are or are will still scared and trying our best to become someone that our society wants us to be? Are we willing to embark on a journey of self-emptying, sacrificial, and genuine discipleship in following where the Master trod? These are hard questions, but they are questions that require us to truly be true to ourselves, be firm in our integrity and Christian values, and be willing to follow Him at all costs. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, do not be afraid but allow ourselves to be firmly rooted in Christ, as well as to humbly walk with Him in love.
Do not be afraid in allowing the Almighty to fill our childlike faith and trusting heart with wonders and awes that is beyond our imagination! Perhaps we might not always see and sense Him at work at times, but our God is wonderful, faithful, generous, and loving beyond anything that we can imagine so do not be afraid of letting Him love us simply and beyond what we can grasp, understand, or comprehend at the moment. Even though the journey might be hard and challenging at times, it is truly worthwhile and life-changing because He is ever-present and ever-faithful.