by David Sisler
Bruce Jenner won the grueling ten event decathlon in the 1976 Olympic Games with a world record score of 8,618 points, but it almost did not happen.
After his freshman year, Jenner had almost decided he was not going back to college. Visiting a friend in Virginia, he learned about an opening in Florida with a water-skiing show. If he took the job, it would void his standing as an amateur athlete and he would never be able to compete in the Olympics. In addition, his mother wanted him to come home to Connecticut and go back to school in the fall.
Jenner packed his bags and drove. When he got to the point where the interstate highway split, the left lane for Florida, and the right lane for Connecticut, Bruce was in the right lane. Just as he began to signal a turn to the left lane, another driver pulled up beside of him, blocking his way.
Bruce said, "I would have had to slow down and pull in behind her to go south. That seemed like too much trouble, so I turned right and went back home. I went to Graceland College that fall, ran track and got into the decathlon."
"It makes me think," he continued. "How many guys out there took the other turn? How many people could be here instead of me?"
How often do the great adventures of life turn on such seemingly simple decisions? When we, like Bruce Jenner, turn right instead of left, do we ever consider where the road will eventually lead? Not just the immediate destination, but the long-term consequences of that choice?
When fishing partners Andrew, Peter, James and John left their trade to follow Jesus, did they think what the future would be? The Bible says, "They left all, and followed Him." True, they left their nets and their boats, but that is not all they abandoned to follow Jesus. They left all they had lived for, all of their dreams, all that had been their lives.
There is much to be said for what is left behind. Fishing was hard work, but an honorable career. They owned their own equipment, their future was secure. But think of the possibility of a fresh start. Who has not dreamed of being able to change the course of their lives, only to be frustrated by the inability to cut off the past?
The invitation to follow Jesus does not allow the past to hinder a new start. Whatever we may have been, however we may have failed, when Jesus says, "Follow me," we can drop all of the baggage of the past and start a new life.
Peter dropped to his knees and cried out, "Depart from me, O Lord, because I am a sinful man." Matthew had sold out to the occupying forces to become a tax collector. Mary was so overcome by her past she washed His feet with her tears. But Jesus is more concerned with the future. He died to forgive the past. He lives to provide a future.
We need to remember that Jesus always told prospective followers to let the dead bury the dead, to let the past with its sins and failures, its commissions and omissions, its mistakes and its outright disobedience slip under His blood and into the sea of God's great forgetfulness. Jesus crosses over our past and offering us a fantastic future says, "Follow me!"
At first "Follow me" meant simply walking with Him in Galilee. There was a great deal of excitement, large crowds, fantastic miracles, outstanding teachings. Later, the crowds grew smaller and the criticism grew larger. Finally, Jesus told Peter, "The days will come when another shall dress you and carry you where you do not want to go, but in spite of that, follow Me."
Look, up ahead, there are two roads. You can choose either one, but standing beside of the straight and narrow road is Jesus. With outstretched arms and with nail scared hands, He says, "Follow me." Will you?
Published in the Augusta Chronicle 11/5/94
Copyright 1994 by David Sisler
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