What does it mean to follow Jesus? I mean, He was clear about what it meant to follow Him, right? Sure, He promised great reward, but He never said it would be easy. I’ve recently finished reading a great book that’s challenged me like few others. It’s called Following Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle: Living Fully, Loving Dangerously by Kent Annan (InterVarsity Press).
When Jesus talked about how difficult it is for the rich man to get into heaven, He pointed out that it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle. Umm… regardless of how you interpret that, it’s obvious that it isn’t a simple feat. In this book Kent talks about how easy it is here in the United States to look around and find someone who has more money than us. That means we can point our fingers at someone else and say, “he’s the rich man that Jesus was talking about.” But as soon as we look outside of the gates of our comfy little world we’ve created, one starts to realize that we are that rich man… no matter how much or little we have.
Throughout the book we hear the stories about Kent’s time living in Haiti. These memoirs are (at times) uncomfortably raw and (always) refreshingly honest. He shares hopes that are birthed in a heart to please God. He shares fears that reveal exactly how scary it can sometimes be to trust God completely in a chaotic world where we don’t have nearly as much control as we like to think we have. But more than anything else he challenges the us to get a little uncomfortable no matter where we’re at.
Kent doesn’t just write this stuff, he lives it. These stories were written (at times by candlelight) while living in circumstances that most of us would have difficulty even imagining. He gave up a comfortable life to try to identify with the people that he felt called to minister to. In the process he lived in tin shacks that hold water about as good as a typical kitchen strainer. If privacy existed at all, it was easily violated. And even bathing takes on new meaning when it’s basically done with a ladle and a bucket of rain water. Kent didn’t just write from his heart, he wrote from this hard-earned experience.
I really wanted to read this book because I’m going to Haiti soon. Written and released before the January 12th earthquake, it seems that this book was very timely as many here in our comfy churches look to get a little uncomfortable to help one of the poorest nations in the world recover from a disaster that reportedly claimed over 200,000 lives. This book has enhanced how I pray for the people of Haiti, those who are doing long-term work down there, and others like myself who are helping through short-term trips. But I’m also challenged to find opportunities to follow Jesus through the eye of the needle even right here in my own community. I thought it was a great read, and it’s definitely one that’s made it onto the short list as one of my favorite books of all time!