Day 3: Freedom to Walk Away
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”
John 6:66-67 ESV
I have to say, looking back over my journey of faith to where I am now, He respected every time I walked away from His offer of grace and Lordship.
One instance happened in high school. I was part of a Christian youth group called Young Life. During this time, I had an opportunity to confess a sin. Something I’d done, but didn’t realize until later, when another member of the group came in complaining about a “hit and run.”
Earlier that evening, I hit a car backing out of a parking space. The passenger riding with me told me I didn’t do any damage and to go on. So, I did. When I heard what I’d done from the daughter of the woman whose van I hit, I was mortified. Afraid. And completely silent.
In that moment, was an open door which I chose not to walk through and it closed. Shortly after, I stopped going to Young Life meetings. Decades later, after I began walking with Him, He brought me back to this place. It was a sin He called me to confess and make restitution for the damage done. As hard as it was, it was a step in experiencing the true freedom He calls us to.
He will let us walk away. But He will not stop pursuing.
There was a young man in my youth group who struggled with bipolar disorder. I’m not sure why he started coming to our meetings, but he did. After small group one night as the kids filed out to go home, he waited until the last teen walked out. He looked me in the eye and boldly said, I heard what you said Mrs. Stacy, but I don’t believe it. A good God who loves me would never allow what I’m going through. And there’s nothing you can say to prove me wrong.
I was startled by his statement, but I also understood. With all the courage I could muster I replied, You’re right. There is nothing I can say to prove God’s love for you. I don’t have to… God will prove it to you. He shook his head and walked away.
As I drove home I prayed, Lord, it is up to you. I stepped out and spoke words only you can back up. Prove it! Prove your love for him because no words I can say will do it.
Just the other day a retired preacher in our church came into the shop. He placed his hand on my shoulder and told me he spent some time with the same young man this week. He told me how the young man mentioned me and my influence in his spiritual life.
Me? I thought. I didn’t do one thing but let that boy walk right out the door!
Sometimes the most beautiful love we have for others is to watch them walk away. It’s a tough thing, heart-wrenching at times, but love always trusts. God is constantly proving His love for those we see wander from His Way. Those who look us dead in the eye and speak their unbelief.
It’s my job to love and let go. It’s God’s job to do the rest.
Everyone has the right to walk away from faith, from relationships, and right out of our lives. But no matter what they walk away from or why they walk away, we are called to respect their freedom to do so.
Read Mark 10:17-22
What was the man looking for?
What did Jesus tell him to do to gain what he lacked?
How did Jesus feel about him when He looked at him?
The man came looking for the way to eternal life. Jesus told him he was lacking one thing: treasure in heaven. The man could not do what Jesus asked him to, he was wealthy and could not give everything to the poor. The man went away. Jesus loved him. But did not try to stop him.
Read Mark 10:23-27
What makes it difficult for people to enter the Kingdom of God?
How is it possible for those who are wealthy to enter the Kingdom?
Jesus respected the rich man’s decision to walk away. He didn’t run after him or try to console him. He just told him the truth, however hard to hear, and loved him by letting him go. Jesus trusted God the Father to work the impossible in the young man’s life.
Sometimes, it makes us sad to walk away from a hard call. But Jesus allows us to. And we have to allow others the freedom to walk away too.
Read John 6:53-66
Jesus is speaking to the crowd that followed Him after the feeding of the five thousand (John 6:1-15, 22-52). They were looking to get their stomachs filled again, but Jesus was more concerned about feeding their spirits.
What did Jesus say they had to do to have life?
How did they respond to the teaching?
Why did some take offense?
These disciples walked away because Jesus’s hard teaching offended their personal sensibilities. They could not understand what He was saying, so they walked away.
Again, Jesus respects their decision to leave. Ultimately He’s trusting His Father to reveal the truth, because no one can understand unless the Father makes the way.
Read John 6:66-69
What did Jesus ask the twelve?
How did they respond?
Some stay even when they don’t understand, because they’ve come far enough to know there is no other way.
Respecting those who walk away, leaves the door open for them to return as Believers. Those who walk out because of a hard truth are unbelievers, even though they looked like Believers for a time. If we don’t respect them in their walking away, treat them with love and kindness, they may not come back.
It can be very painful to watch people walk away from faith, from relationships, and out of our lives, but remember God has a plan in all of it. And really there is nothing we can do to keep them from leaving, but we can respect them and leave the door open for them to return.
Talk It Out
Talk it over with yourself:
Think about a time when you were involved in someone walking out on you or you walked out. What was the root issue? How did you feel? How did you respond?
How would you feel if they came back? or if you were called to go back? Did your parting leave room for a choice to return?
Talk it over with God:
Share your wounds over past walking out or walking away experiences in your life with God. Bring them before Him one at a time. Ask Him to reveal the root of the emotion attached to these episodes in your life. Allow Him to fill you with His love for those who have walked away from you or you have walked away from.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. …”
John 15:12 ESV
Work Out Your Faith
Is there someone in your life who is struggling with unbelief? Someone who frankly said to you, I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t believe it.? Are you carrying around guilt because you hoped to change their mind, but instead they walked away?
Or maybe you’ve written someone off, said: They’ll never change! Given up hope of their ever returning. Are you hard-hearted toward them? Unbelieving when it comes to God being able to do the impossible?
One of the most loving things we can do is boldly go before the Father, walk into the throne room or beat on heaven’s door, for the sake of someone else. Today, storm heaven with your prayers for this person. Bring them by name.
Whether you’re bearing guilt for not doing enough or hardened by doubt and unbelief, work out your faith by asking to God prove His love for them. Ask Him to do what you see as impossible in their lives.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
Mark 10:27 ESV
Reflection Scripture: Memorize
_____ _____________ out of _________________ _________________ or ________ ________________. ______________, in ____________________ _____________ others ______________ ____________________, not _______________ to your ____________ _________________ but _________ of you to the ________________ of the ___________. _________________ 2:3-4