What I learned about discipleship from a stranger on the metro.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:33-34)
As I was running to a meeting south of the Foggy Bottom Metro station, I realized a man was chasing me. It was an odd occasion. I was late and I sprinted off as soon as the metro car door opened, Unaware, my black wool scarf flew off my shoulder landing on the platform floor. At that very moment an observer grabbed the fallen scarf, determined to return it to me. Yet, it was too late. I was gone.
What he did not anticipate, I am sure, was the needed energy, determination, time, and effort to satisfy his mission. For him to return my scarf, he had to sprint up the first flight of escalators, run through the turn style, and continue the chase up another very long escalator to the street level. When he arrived at the top, he would have seen me speeding down the street. Undeterred he continued and, after a couple of blocks, he yelled hoping I would stop so he could present me with my lost scarf.
I remember thinking at the time that I had heard him but ignored his attempt to grab my attention. I was late and had no time to talk or engage with a stranger. As I turned around, he presented the fallen scarf. “Wherever you are going,” he said a bit winded, “good luck.” It was his way of pronouncing a blessing upon my life and mission.
I am embarrassed to say that I only responded with a quick “thank you” before continuing my run to the meeting. Reflecting upon the chase I realized all that he had done accomplish his mission. It was a picture of a man dedicated to a worthy purpose: return the lost black scarf. He demonstrated exactly what Jesus meant when he informed his listeners to put aside all anxiety and worry and expend your energy on the pursuit of the things of God.
I have often thought about the definition of the man’s pursuit there at Foggy Bottom. First, he owned the mission (return the lost scarf). He could have just placed it on the bench or taken it to the station manager, but he didn’t. No, he resolved that he would return it.
Second, he had to chase me for a good distance. He was willing to exhaust himself for my benefit. He gave all that he had--time and energy--to reach me.
Third, he did not allow my rejection to deter him from the mission. He persevered. And all he received was the satisfaction that he could outrun an older man who responded with only a quick “thank you.” No offer to have a cup of coffee from me as a token of thanks. He was a picture of what Jesus means when he exhorts us to “seek.”
For us to refrain from worry and anxiety is to truly seek; to pursue the things of God. His kingdom and righteousness leaves room for nothing else. There is no room for anxiety, worry, or fear when your heart is consumed by the pursuit of things of God. What does that look like practically?
We like to think that we can allow our thoughts to go in any direction we want. That is not true. Our thought life belongs to Christ, not us. Jesus in Matthew 6 makes it clear that we are not autonomous. Our thoughts are to conform to the will of God.
Anxiety and worry consume an amazing amount of time and energy. If we are to serve our Lord well, seeking him with all our hearts and mind, we will be cheating him if we allow anxious thoughts to rule our minds. We only have so much energy.
And finally, we are called to trust our Lord. Overwhelming anxiety is a confession that we are not trusting in our sovereign Lord, but our own selves. To seek God’s kingdom and righteousness means to look and depend on Christ alone. We adopt his values and priorities, knowing that to do so is only by his grace.
Chuck Garriott is the founder and Executive Director of Ministry to State.