Beside Galilee: A Lesson in Following

I think everyone has a few “defining moments” in their lives. The following event occurred during a study abroad trip to Israel/Palestine during my freshman year of college and served as one of those defining moments for me.

The sun hadn’t risen when my phone’s alarm buzzed at 6:00 a.m. I switched it off and crawled groggily from bed. I’d recovered from jet lag, but 18 hour days were taking a toll. I made my way to the bathroom to get dressed, then grabbed my Bible and a notebook and headed outside.

A cool breeze swept toward me across the Sea of Galilee. I pulled my jacket tighter around me and walked down the beach to the water’s edge. A stack of large plastic chairs sat there, so I pulled one off, dumped the rainwater from the seat, and dried it with my jacket sleeve. Then I sat, facing the water, ready for my morning devotions.

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I opened my Bible and peered at it. Rats, it’s too dark. I can’t see anything! Now what am I supposed to do?

Be still.

Oh . . . right.

I leaned back in the chair and closed my eyes. The gentle, steady sound of waves lapping against the sand soothed me, and I relaxed.

The last 2½ weeks had been non-stop motion as my tour group walked everywhere in Jerusalem, drove to surrounding areas, traveled south into the Negev, and now journeyed north into Galilee. I was learning many new things but hadn’t had time to stop and process. Now, pictures of places I’d been floated through my mind, and I reflected on the biblical characters we had studied as we traveled. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David – so many had called this place home.

YOU were here, too, I realized. Maybe in this very spot. In the early morning quiet, I could almost picture the scene as it had been two thousand years ago.

The fisherman grasped one of the boat’s oars with rugged, weather-worn hands and waited for his brother to take the other. They started for shore, pulling in steady unison. He let the muscles settle into a rhythmic motion, while his eyes wandered across the restless water. Three seagulls circled overhead, cawing to the rising sun, while the wind blew across the sea and sent an icy wave over his sandaled feet.

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They reached the shallow water and dragged the boat onto the shore. The crunch of gravelly sand announced someone’s approach, and he glanced up. The man approaching was familiar – a rabbi, from Nazareth.

He straightened, ready to ask if he could help, when the man spoke.

“Follow me.”

What? Follow him? Where? When?…Now?

He stared at the man, but there were no explanations. The rabbi just stood there, watching him. Waiting.

He opened his mouth to refuse, but something stopped him.

Go with him.

Lord? You want me to go with him? But…why? This is my home.

Do you trust me?

He hesitated. But he knew the answer.

I trust you.

Then go.

The rabbi stretched out his hand. His eyes were intense, compelling. “Follow me.”

So he did.

Goosebumps rose on my arms as I realized how deep the history of this place went. I could picture it so clearly – Peter, Andrew, James, and John, their confusion, their fear…and their faith.

Will you follow me?

The question startled me. Of course, I will. I’d promised Him that years ago.

No. Will you follow me?

Oh.

I realized He wasn’t asking if I believed in His Son. He wanted me to walk with Him, day by day, obeying Him as each instruction came.

But where will you take me? What will you ask me to do? I paused. What will I have to give up?

I remembered Peter, Andrew, James, and John and realized how difficult their decision must have been. To leave their jobs, their families, their homes – everything they’d ever known – and why? Because an itinerant rabbi had asked them to follow….

So this is faith, I thought. Standing at a bend in the road, unable to see what lies ahead; on the bank of a fast-moving river, unsure what will happen with the next step; at the edge of a cliff, unable to see the ground below. Standing there – terrified, but somehow compelled onward.

Do you trust me?

The problem was…I didn’t know. Two or three years ago, I would have said “yes” without hesitating. Now, I was realizing that I could say I trusted God a hundred times, but unless I backed that statement with action, it wouldn’t mean a thing.

The air around me brightened, and I glanced behind me to see the sun peeking above the mountains. I turned my chair around, partly to enjoy the sunrise and partly to stall for time.

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Do you trust me?

I sat…and sat… and sat, struggling inside. And as I sat, I remembered words from His Book that promised help and protection, peace and freedom, grace and love. I remembered how He had granted all those things to the men and women I had studied in the past weeks. And I remembered my own past: His patient answers to my frantic requests for guidance in life, His calming reassurances to my fears about leaving my friends and family to go to a college 600 miles away, His steady love in response to my smiles and tears, my successes and failures.

So, maybe He wasn’t asking for a blind step of faith, but a trusting one instead, taken hand-in-hand with a loving Father, a Shepherd who asked for trust from sheep too blind to see the path ahead.

The sun brightened as it rose over the mountain, shooting rays of light through the clouds. My answer became clear. I’d come too far with God to choose my own way over His. He was the only choice I could make.

I trust You, I finally told Him. Then I remembered my earlier thoughts about real trust requiring action. My gaze fell on the pen in my hand – the representation of my dream to be a writer, the symbol of all He could ask me to give.

Lay it down.

Wait…literally?

Yes.

It shouldn’t have mattered if anyone was watching, but I glanced around anyway. Um, this feels really weird, I told Him. I felt His insistence. So, I bent pressed my pen into the sand, covering it after it was in place. Then I sat back up and glanced at the sunrise.

View of the Sea from near our hostel

View of the Sea from near our hostel

Follow Me.

I will.

Do you have a life-defining moment to share?

4 Comments:

  1. All He asks from you is obedience Ruthie. He is faithful to fulfill all He has for you. Thanks for sharing from your heart. GOD is good and we are grateful for His faithfulness through the years!
    Love You GM

    • Thanks, Grandma! I’m so thankful for his faithfulness and for the way he’s shown it to me through all of my family members like you for so many years. Thanks for your prayers!

  2. I’m catching up on your blog’s. I love reading your thoughts and insights. This older Ruthie sure learns a lot from younger Ruthie!

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