When she was eight years old, Sara Hayden had narrowed her career choices to three ― dolphin trainer, Olympic gymnast gold medalist, and catcher for the Oakland A’s baseball team.
“Later, in college, I had other career options,” the Presbyterian minister and Atlanta-based church planter told worshipers at the PC(USA)’s Disciple-Making Conference here this evening (Jan. 23). “I spent a lot of time trying to keep all the options within reach because opening one door closed others and I didn’t want to make the wrong choice.”
This perhaps uniquely American way of looking at life can get in the way of true discipleship, Hayden suggested. “A few weeks ago in the Sunday school class of the church I attend, we talked about Jesus’ calling of his disciples,” she said, “and there was no listed requirements for discipleship except their willingness to follow. Jesus was indiscriminant, inviting people wherever they were [in their lives] to go with him.”
Like young people chasing career dreams, Jesus’ followers “were committed to something they couldn’t see and that those around them probably couldn’t see either,” she said. “The path was simply emerging as they moved about, living into the stories Jesus told them.
“They were people of the way, not people of the finish line or awards ceremony.”
That is the way of discipleship, Hayden insisted. “No matter how you got here or why you came, this is an opportunity to take our eyes off the world to see … through God’s eyes and God’s purposes. Jesus is less preoccupied with the job status of people he trained than their capacity to look at the world through his eyes. Discipleship is a matter of perspective, not title.”
The path of discipleship “looks different to each of us, even though we are on the same way,” Hayden said. “We all have our ‘desert places,’ but that’s where God does God’s best work.”
She told a story about Presbyterian writer Ann Lamott, who first came to the church confessing that “her heart was good but her insides were bad.” She said her pastor at the time, the Rev. James Noel ― now a professor at San Francisco Theological Seminary ― told her, “Just be open to the coming, you don’t have to bring anything except your willingness.”
Christian life is a process, not a product, Hayden concluded. “Nothing is more important than belonging to God, of sowing the seeds of the kingdom wherever we are. We’re working towards a purpose and it’s all worthwhile.
“What would it mean to live our lives as if they really did belong to God, the currency love?” she asked. “God can work with that.”