In 2002 had been living as a “Christian” for over 30 years, but I was depressed. Marriage, family, friendships, career, and ministry were all going well for me but there was still an emptiness in my soul.
I had lost my enthusiasm for Christ and life years earlier and was going through the motions. I had drifted out of my calling from God to use psychology to help leaders grow spiritually and was in many ways “running a business” of helping people. It’s not that I didn’t love God or people, I did and was committed, but I was tired. Worse, I had become rather preoccupied with my accomplishments, envious of others’ success, worried about money and other problems, quick to get frustrated and to complain, and sometimes neglectful of the people around me.
The Beginnings of my Spiritual Renewal
One weekend that year Kristi and I went to a John Eldredge retreat on “The Journey of Desire.” God used him to help me get in touch with the emptiness and longings of my heart. During quiet times of reflection and prayer and conversations with Kristi I admitted to how burned out I felt and how far from God I’d drifted. The first thing I did after that retreat was call Ray Ortlund, Sr. and ask him to be my spiritual director.
I had gone through Ray’s discipleship a few years earlier. God had used this year long experience to begin to soften my heart to him and to give me an inspiring example of a man who was dedicated to “Be all and only for Jesus.” I had never met anyone who worshiped God with such reverence, affection, and joy! I wanted to be more like Ray and to give my life to caring for pastors and leaders like he did, but I felt trapped in my professional career and the box of psychology. While I was in Ray’s group for pastors I wanted his heart for God and people but I couldn’t quite get there at that time.
So I began meeting privately with Ray to share my life and to pray with him. I asked God to use him to help me get unstuck and what a great help to me he was!
Shortly after I began meeting with Ray there was a turning point. I was listening to Dallas Willard present in a talk Jesus’ gospel of the availability of the Kingdom of Heavens and I heard this in a way that I’d never understood it before:
Think again about how you’re living your life in light of the opportunity to live your daily life with me as my apprentice in the Kingdom of the Heavens. Turn your life over to me –- each aspect, each decision –- and I will govern you in love and wisdom (Matthew 4:17, paraphrase).
Immediately I felt my heart warmed by the Holy Spirit. Right then I decided to rededicate my life to be an “apprentice” of Jesus Christ which included forsaking sin and “selling everything” or, in practical terms, reorganizing my whole life — all that I do — around learning to be with Jesus to become like him. Instead of trying to make my projects for my life succeed (or try to get God to do that for me!) I would abandon all outcomes to the Lord. I would seek to find my joy and peace, identity and strength in him alone.
So I put my first attention on what God was doing around me and within me and join in with him! Repeatedly I reminded myself with the enthusiasm for God that I had absorbed from Ray, “I am the disciple Jesus loves! I am the disciple Jesus loves!” (John 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:7, 21:20).
The great question of my daily life became not just “What would Jesus do if he were me?” but the more important one of, “How would Jesus do what I am doing if he were me?” The way of Jesus is the key to life: his dependence upon the Father, his unhurried pace, and his readiness to love whoever he came across.
I understood that becoming Jesus’ apprentice was a lot more than a priority to be listed on a page of values — it was the opportunity of bringing my daily life into the Kingdom of the Heavens, doing whatever I did with and for Jesus Christ. I wanted to learn to express my devotion to Christ not just in my “spiritual” life but in my actual life as I:
- Interacted with my family
- Counseled clients in psychotherapy
- Spoke to groups of people
- Wrote articles and devotions from my website
- Encountered a neighbor
- Drove my car
- Waited in line
- Responded to someone who criticized me
- Saw a homeless person on the curb
- Reacted to disappointment and stress
- Got up in the morning and went to bed at night
I realized that all these things — everything I said and did — could become expressions of my love relationship with Jesus my Lord! Little-by-little apprenticeship to Jesus became the source of my comfort and confidence and what gave me meaning in monotony and joy in trials.
I Invite You to Become Jesus’ Apprentice with Me
I wonder if you’ve ever decided to live as an apprentice of Jesus? Have you consecrated your heart to God till it’s inflamed with love for him and those around you? Are you living your daily life in a partnership with the Lord Jesus Christ?
For me it all began with a prayer from my heart in response to hearing Jesus’ gospel in fresh words. My prayer is called “The Apprentice Prayer.”