At home, my favorite place to pray and enjoy some solitude is in my rocking chair on my balcony. It’s a relatively secluded space, quiet enough, and ideal for periodically breaking away from the noise and distraction of activity.
As I sit in my rocking chair I am at eye level with the crowns of several trees around my yard. It’s a great place for watching birds. I am not a birdwatcher by hobby, but I cannot help but notice and enjoy watching the various species of birds interact with one another in the trees that surround our property. I have seen lots of blue jays, woodpeckers, doves, cardinals, and mockingbirds.
Recently, as I was in prayer and contemplation, I watched a group of blackbirds sitting on a power line. After a few moments, one of them flew down and landed in a nearby yard. The others followed. After another few seconds, one of them flew up into a tree. Again, the others followed. This went on for a few minutes. From one tree to the next…to the powerline…to another powerline…and so on. There didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the movement. But if one of the birds flew off, the others unquestionably followed suit. There was no true destination. The destination was the flock itself.
A thought occurred to me. We tend to flock together with other like-minded people. The flock can be defined by one of a million different things…the sharing of a common interest, or a common viewpoint, or a common set of beliefs. A common skin color. A common agenda. Whatever.
But there is a sense of security in being amongst the flock. And it is natural to crave the companionship and affirmation of other people with whom you identify. That, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. In fact, we ought to seek to “do life” with others. Otherwise, life doesn’t work very well. Flocks have their purpose.
The danger is when being with the flock itself becomes the ultimate point. With no other sense of direction or purpose.
Following Jesus will at times demand a willingness to fly separately from the flock.
At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. – John 6:66
Or be abandoned by the flock. For the sake of the flock.
If we are following Jesus, we must not simply resolve to settle for the common wisdom and the dearest values of the particular people around us, whether family, friends, or our closest brothers and sisters in Christ. No matter how easy and right it may feel.
To follow Jesus, you must be willing to fly separately from the flock. And if you do, perhaps other people will follow you to him.