From the “Imperfect Disciple” by Jared Wilson:

When church people say, “Discipleship means following Jesus,” I think they tend to picture a group of suntanned dudes in cantata-quality robe costumes peacefully strolling through green pastures, perhaps stopping here and there under the comfortable shade of a tree to watch Jesus smile at them and tousle the hair of precocious children scampering about at his Birkenstocked feet.

Or maybe I’m just cynical.

When I ask, “What comes to mind when you hear the word discipleship?” I’d love to hear people answer more along these lines:

“Believing God has a plan for me even when I’m afraid he doesn’t.”

“Believing God loves me even when I feel like nobody else does.”

“Trusting that God is doing something for my good even though my life has always been terrible up till now.”

“Following Jesus even though my feelings speak more loudly.”

“Denying myself in order to do what’s right although I don’t really want to.”

“Imagining a time when I won’t hurt as much as I do now.”

“Imagining a time when my spouse or child won’t hurt as much as they do now.”

You get the idea, I hope. None of those responses really suffices as a definition of discipleship like you’d find in a theological dictionary, but they all put more skin on the word, I think.

Sometimes I read books and articles on discipleship and I wonder who in the world they’re written for. And then I remember: Oh, yeah—for people who give the Sunday-school answers in Sunday school but save the real, life-or-death, grasping-for-meaning, gasping-for-breath grappling with God for those rare moments when they’re all alone, undistracted, and unable to fend off the crushing sense of their own inadequacies and apprehensions about the world and their place in it. I tend to think that a lot of the ways the evangelical church teaches discipleship seem designed for people who don’t appear to really need it. It’s like the über-toned CrossFit junkie who adds a spin class to his weekly schedule, because, well, why not?

I wonder sometimes how all of our steps, tips, and quasi-spiritual “life hacks” come across to the Christian woman who is married to an unbelieving husband completely apathetic to the things of God, to the young Christian whose parents aren’t saved and hate that he is, to the husband whose wife seems more interested in Pinterest than in him, to the working-class guys and gals who see through the slick pick-me-ups of the privileged, to the frequently discouraged, the constantly disappointed, and the perennially depressed.

For those of us who have struggled our whole life to get our act together, what does a discipleship built around getting your act together eventually do?

Well, I don’t know about you, but it about made me give up.

Whether you’re tempted to “give up” or tempted to be satisfied with your Christian life, you will find grace and truth for real life at Vertical Life I.