Have you ever played “Follow the leader”? I’m sure most of you have, at some time in your childhood. Some kids love being the leader, deciding what to make the kids behind them do, choosing where to go as they lead along their followers. Other kids, myself included, would rather follow along and do exactly what the leader did in front of us.
I’ve been thinking about that game quite a bit lately, and pondering how we still play follow the leader as adults. Some people love to lead, others prefer to follow. I’ve especially thought about this while working out with an exercise video in recent months. While I’ve tried to “walk away the pounds” I’ve watched the exercise leader and all of her walking buddies and my “sanctified imagination” starting making some comparisons to how we follow the leader in life.
Now when I first got this particular video I had to focus just on the leader. I watched how she moved and tried to stay in step with her. When she moved right, I moved right. When she did knee lifts, I did knee lifts. When she raised her arms high, I raised my arms high. At first it was a little difficult. I didn’t know what was coming so sometimes I would move left instead of right, or I would be out of step with her and would have to stop a minute and get back on the right foot (or the left foot 🙂 again. I panted and sweat as I tried to keep up with the smiling, fit, relaxed lady on my TV screen.
As the weeks went by, I became more familiar with the routine on the video. I knew what was coming and I could keep in step quite easily. I started to even know exactly what she was going to say and what her walking buddies would say back to her. I still panted and sweat, but I was able to look around at the other walkers on the tape instead of just the leader. It was really interesting to see what had been going on while I was focused on the leader before. Sometimes the token male walker in the back row was snickering about something the leader said and looking at the walkers around him to see if they thought it was funny, too. One day I noticed that the lady in the far back corner had broken the exercise belt she was using. I didn’t see it actually break, but I saw her picking the handle up off the floor and rubbing her elbow as if she had gotten stung by the breaking belt. I sure hoped that never happened to me! Some of the walkers had lots of energy and they moved confidently, with lots of extra movements. Others seemed a little sluggish and seemed to have trouble keeping up with the routine. During one part of the routine the walkers had to first put their arms out to the sides and then stretch them over their heads. One lady was talking with the leader and she raised her arms up too soon. “Woops!” she said, and quickly got back in time with the leader, but she had this sick looking smile on her face and I could tell she was thinking, “Oh shoot, I messed up. Now that’s going to be on the video for everyone to see!”
I know life is not an exercise video, but I can see some comparisons to how we go through life. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) If you’re a Christian, you are called to follow Jesus as you live each day. When someone first becomes a Christian, it’s vital to keep our eyes focused on Jesus so we keep in step with the Spirit and live as He wants us to. We don’t know what’s coming next, so we watch carefully, pant and sweat, and adjust our actions to obey Him if we notice that we’re out of step. After a while, we fall into a familiar routine and it’s tempting to look around at those walking with us instead of just following our leader. We might see someone making fun of our leader and be tempted to laugh along with them in disrespect. We might see someone go through a difficult time and hope that never happens to us. We don’t want to go through the same pain we think they’re going through. We might compare ourselves to people going through life with lots of energy, accomplishing wonderful things and wish we could do as well as they did. We might see others and think “at least I’m not as worthless as they are” as we watch someone plod along making lots of mistakes. We may start to feel confident in how well we’re following the leader and then be surprised to mess up in front of everyone and then deal with embarrassment and guilt afterward.
The truth is, the only person we have to focus on as we go through life is Jesus. He says, “Follow me!” We can look around once in a while, but not with the purpose of comparing ourselves with others or judging them. We can encourage others to keep on walking as they follow the Lord, we can do what we can to help them as they walk. We can walk as well as we can, but not worry when we fail at times. Even our failures can be an example as we admit our mistake or sin and get back in step with the Father.
You know something? I watched that video so much that pretty soon I had it practically memorized. One day while I was working out, the exercise belt I was using snapped! Yes, just like the lady’s in the video. But I found out that it wasn’t nearly as painful as I had imagined it to be. I was able to keep walking and follow the leader. I pray that each of you is able to truly “Follow the leader” as you go through life.
© Robyn Mulder 2005, therobynsnest.org