Early in this journey, Jesus and I had a chat. Actually, He did the talking: “Shawn, let’s be clear. If you have any notion that you are going to bring me to East Colfax, get rid of it. I am already there, present in that community, present with the people. I don’t need your help to bring me there. Thank you very much.” The tone of “thank you very much” was clearly intended to put me in my place.
“Hearing” Jesus in prayer is different for everyone and can even be dangerous. But for decades, I have had the sense, especially at transition times, of hearing Him. Not a voice, but insistent impressions in my mind and heart, often with specific language, coming back to me.I heard those words, “I am there already,” over and over, insistent, persistent, deep; I still hear them. I need them. Sadly, what can happen in communities of desperation is that well-meaning followers of Jesus come, often unaware, projecting this mind-set: “WE ARE THE GREAT RESCUERS BRINGING JESUS AND HIS HELP TO YOU POOR PEOPLE.” OK, a bit sarcastic, but you understand what I am saying. Those in poverty often become projects, even spiritual ones, for those of us “better off.” We come to “fix people.”
I would like to think I wouldn’t have done that, but Jesus wasn’t taking any chances. He was blunt. I was to come quietly and humbly, aware that He was here, already working, advancing His kingdom.How would that work? He said more: “Look for me. Find where I am working; hang out there. Love, listen, serve. I will show you what to do.” Jesus’ instructions clear, I came up with this statement: “I came to East Colfax to find Jesus, to see where He was at work, then to join Him. I came to find Him in the poor and broken, in those who serve in His name, even in those who serve Him without knowing it.” In my previous ministry, I went, early in the morning, to the woods in Cherry Creek State Park to walk, pray and think. It was life-giving, especially for a country boy from Michigan. Trees, water, fresh air, a place to step away, be renewed and get clear with Jesus.I had a saying, a riff on the famous words of Henry David Thoreau. He said, “I came to the woods to be alone.” I said, “I came to the woods to find Jesus.” Now, my internal statement became this: “I came to East Colfax to find Jesus.”Tip-toeing towards Colfax, looking for Jesus, I thought of Jesus calling the first disciples. In Mark 1 we see it—first Simon and Andrew, then James and John; two sets of brothers, all fishermen. Jesus comes one day and says, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They had met him before, knew his deep love, and began to love and trust him, trust him enough to be ready for this day.
The day comes. Jesus doesn’t ask, he commands, “Come follow me…” I see them, young men, strong, hard-working, but desperately longing for something more than fish. They hear Jesus, look at their nets and boats and the life they knew, look at Jesus, knowing the moment of decision has come. They don’t hesitate. Simon and Andrew drop their nets; James and John scramble out of their dad’s boat. They follow, walking into an adventure that defines the rest of their lives.Imagine the encouragement they felt, for Jesus is saying, “It is not your job to create what will happen, not your job to be in charge, not your job to bring me anywhere. You need not fear or worry. Simply follow me; I will show you the way.” Jesus delivered on that. He out front, they following behind, their lives radically transformed.Think about your own life. I expect even now Jesus is calling you to follow Him into some place of service, a way of giving yourself away, a step in advancing His kingdom. You may be afraid and uncertain. But fear not. He is ahead of you; just look for Him and He will be there. Set down your own nets and follow. He will guide, sustain and transform you.So too for me and Diane; for over two years now we have looked for Him here along East Colfax. We find Him daily. When we find Him, we simply follow, loving and serving as He directs. Jesus creates the path; we walk in it. He has not failed us yet.
I came to East Colfax to find Jesus. Period. Full stop. The end of a sentence; the beginning of a radical adventure.