In my youth, I tended to be a follower. Everything I did was based on some insecurity I had formed within which almost demanded that I do things to please others. In order to "feel" accepted, I did what they asked - even when what they asked would be contrary to what common sense, learned values, and/or sound advice would have warned against. My choices landed me in many a predicament which required either my attempts at covering it up (when what I did was clearly wrong and would land me in trouble), or resulted in me being "accepted" but all for the wrong reasons entirely. Being a follower is not always the best thing - unless the one you are following is Christ! Yet even as we follow Christ, he doesn't want us to do so blindly or without purposeful intention. To this end, he gives each of us a mind and expects we will use it!
The Lord gave us each a mind, and nothing we do can be hidden from him. (Psalm 33:15 CEV)
As I was listening to the radio on the way to work yesterday, a gentleman called into the morning show and shared a story of the change which occurred in his life after experiencing a near-death episode a few years back. In essence, he died three times on the operating table as a result of crushing injuries he suffered when pinned between two semi trucks. His organs were all seriously injured, the bleeding was astronomically out of control, and his prognosis was something close to a 1% chance of surviving. He recounted how he felt like he was given a second chance - having been a believer in Christ when this occurred, but now he was a follower of Christ after this event. At first this may not seem very significant, but it is - for what we believe doesn't always affect how we act. Case in point, I did a whole lot of stuff in my youth which was contrary to my beliefs!
A follower actually comes along behind another and follows in the same direction. As kids, we'd play this game of "follow the leader" - one would be the leader, taking us through various obstacles hither and yon, and we'd line up behind the individual doing exactly what he/she did. If we wouldn't do it, we were out of the line. Some of the choices of the leader were easy to follow - like when they turned three times in place, or jumped up and down on one foot, then sprinted across the lawn. When they climbed out on a tree limb and jumped to the ground, some just wouldn't take the risk of breaking a bone in the fall! Too often, those who wouldn't go to the extremes were labeled as "chicken" or "cowards". Way too many times, I did things I wasn't comfortable with just because I did not want to wear either one of those labels!
I wonder what life would be like if we learned to follow with intention - rather than because we feel pressured to follow or too insecure not to be in the group of others who are following? When we equate this to our spiritual lives, I think we might just find we wouldn't follow so closely to some of the practices which are "required" of us in Christian circles today. We might just choose to read our Bibles at our own pace rather than having to follow some reading plan or reading through it in a year. We might just go to church somewhere which embraces us just as we are rather than having to get all "prettied-up" in order to be accepted. We might even find we make some decisions based on our own convictions rather than always having to do things based on the convictions of another!
If God gave us our mind, don't you think he intends for us to actually use it? I'd suspect he every one of us has at one time or another chosen to be a follower of another's advice, urging, or guilt - even when it contradicted what we wanted or knew better than to do. Any time we choose to blindly follow, we are in danger of following the wrong leader. Any time we choose to purposefully follow - making choices based on what we know to be true - we are actually lining up behind a leader we can count on to lead us well. God knows the intentions of our heart - the purpose of our mind. He also knows how to lead us into things which are going to stretch our understanding and give deeper root to the matters of heart which will make us richer and stronger.
If we are going to follow - it better be with the right intent. If we are going to choose a leader to line up behind - it better be one who will not lead us astray. If we are going to lead - we better be following the right leader ourselves! Just sayin!