Just what does it mean to “follow” Jesus? Not long ago, for many it just meant being an American. That day is done. Obeying God? That’s important, but being good is not good enough. Telling people you follow? That expression is crucial, but not central. Going to church? Nope, going to church makes you no more of a Christian than going into a barn makes you a horse. Years back I came across a verse that began a change process in me.
Jesus proclaimed “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Following Jesus means we know the Father and the Son. But just what does it mean to “know” God? That question drove my second book A Passionate Pursuit of God: How Knowing God Transforms Your Life, but I wish I could rewrite it. Yes, the book was good and true and accurate, but I write better now, and think better as well.
I would add Genesis chapter three, one I’ve read hundreds of times, but a recent rereading pushed me beyond temptation, sin, and the Fall. Trace what happened before the Fall by what happened right after it, “When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the LORD God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the LORD God among the trees” (Genesis 3:8, NLT).
Did God stroll through the trees in the cool evening breeze to cool off? Not really, he wanted connection with his creation--Adam and Eve. They hid, not their typical response. But what seems to have been typical? And evening stroll. All three of them. Relationship. Knowing.
The best metaphor of knowing God is garden walking. Keeping in step with God moment by moment. Crafting a continual awareness of his presence. Conversing with him—the best way to handle a situation, thanking him, asking for help for yourself and others.
And I can think of no better explanation for what it means to follow Jesus but to walk through the garden of your life with him. Behavior enters here, once we decide we yearn to know God. Much like a marriage, some behavior enhances our connection. Some behavior distances us. But knowing takes center stage.
Take a look at the image above of a garden path. It begins in an easy level walk. It heads for the woods, sometimes darker and harder to navigate. Now, image you and Jesus, side by side. Garden walking. Step by step.
Ken Russell, a good friend back from our high school days, gives an excellent human example from marriage of the type of relationship we can have with God. He posted this on Facebook, "Ain't it grand to have one of THOSE days with someone you've been with for the better part of four decades and still be having the time of your life?" Let's build the same connection with God, have the time of our lives that will extend into eternity.
Kick Starting the Application
On a scale of 1 to 10, how aware are you of Jesus’ presence beside you moment by moment? Does it satisfy you? What behaviors could be stopped or added to enhance that? Can you craft something to remind you to garden walk? For me, I have a tattoo on my inner wrist of a Coptic cross. That helps. I’m not suggesting you run to your local tat shop, but find something that works for you. Remember, God desires to garden walk with you. A lot.