Wednesday, May 30, 2007

In the Dust of My Rabbi

In the Dust of My Rabbi
by Rachel Stanton

As part of a series on discipleship, my Sunday School teacher recently shared with us a beautiful ancient Jewish blessing. He explained that in the 1st century, there were many prominent rabbis and each rabbi would have disciples. It was a great honor to be invited by a rabbi to become his disciple, but becoming a disciple did not simply mean to become a student of the rabbi’s teachings. It meant actually following the rabbi from place to place, becoming like him, emulating his actions and attitudes, developing his character. It was common to say to someone who had become a disciple: “May you always be covered in the dust of your rabbi.”

I have thought a lot about this concept as I have been seeking to understand what it truly means to be a disciple of Jesus. I was raised in a Christian setting where all the questions had easy, direct answers and faith equaled certainty and superiority. It was a world of doctrinal statements and eschatological charts and clearly defined roles. It was a boundary-focused faith that made it very clear who was in and who was out. Following Christ was defined largely by maintaining and protecting those boundaries.

But now my faith understanding has changed. I no longer have a neatly packaged systematic theology. I don’t even begin to understand everything in Scripture and I’m distrustful of those who claim they do. It seems that the more I continue on my journey, I realize that there is so much that I don’t know about faith, about life, about God and the universe. In fact, some days I feel that I scarcely know anything at all. But I do know that I want to exchange my boundary-focused faith for a center-focused faith. And that center is my rabbi Jesus.

If I am focused on following my rabbi that means that I’m not focused on judging or condemning others or comparing my performance to theirs. I’m reminded of our family dinners when my younger brothers and I were kids. Dinner would always begin with someone saying grace and, often, as soon as the “amen” was said, one of us would point an accusing finger at the other and announce, “He had his eyes open during prayer!” Hmmmm…

If my life of discipleship is center-focused, then I won’t be so concerned with checking to see who has strayed outside my neatly drawn boundaries. If I have my eyes focused on my rabbi walking ahead of me, then I won’t be busy looking around to see who didn’t have their eyes closed during prayer!

There is so much about faith and life that I can’t even pretend to explain or understand. But what I do know with confidence is that I love Jesus and I want to follow him. I want to love and serve people like he did. I want to communicate grace and mercy and hope to others. I want to live a life of justice, kindness and humility. I want to walk so closely behind my rabbi that I am covered in the dust from his sandals.

Rachel Stanton co-hosts the Off The Map sponsored blog Justice and Compassion, "a conversation about how to create a more just, compassionate and peaceful world." She and her co-conspirator Benjamin Ady invite you to join the conversation.


Megs said...

Rachel, your writing is simply beautiful. Thank you for sharing yourself. I really related to what you are saying, and find it very comforting to read you words, as I have a lot of guilt for not being the gung-ho evangelist I once was... Thanks, dear and powerful woman! You go girl!

Jemila Monroe said...

beautiful, good reminder

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