Artwork - The Follow Me Project
© 2008-2022 Nicki Black
Matthew 4:18-19 (Amplified Bible) bares this soul-searching moment, as Jesus gives the invitation of invitations at the Sea of Galilee:
18 As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He noticed two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And He said to them, “[b]Follow Me [as My disciples, accepting Me as your Master and Teacher and walking the same path of life that I walk], and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him [becoming His disciples, believing and trusting in Him and following His example]. 21 And going on [further] from there He noticed two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John, in the boat with their father [c]Zebedee, mending their nets; and He called them [to follow Him as His disciples]. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him [becoming His disciples, believing and trusting in Him and following His example].”
In early 2021, I embarked on a personal project that had been stirring in my heart for over a decade. As you enter the lounge of our recording studio and office, there is a large wall that stands as a bit of a crossroads between hallways. We left the wall blank when we built this new space, around 2007. Even then, I knew it had a purpose to represent something meaningful. I left it alone as a still and quiet canvas, to allow the picture to define itself when it was ready.
God likes to teach me about life, especially when we create together. He was teaching me about letting things breathe in the becoming, and to yield to His timing for the right things, instead of filling in openings with merely good things. He was teaching me to wait on Him.
I did know that the wall was supposed to visually convey a prophetic picture in stained glass, so in those preparation years between the whisper and the fruit, I continued to "train" for the right timing, just like a dear, very prophetic friend once told me, "Be ready in and out of season." I avoided distractions and toxic situations so it was easier for my eyes to see and my ears to hear. I sharpened my dexterity with tools and materials. We had a steel frame made for the glass by a friend, in anticipation. I pressed in deeper in worshipping, praying, and walking with Him. I wrote down my dreams that He gave me and I asked for strategic revelation. I started to appreciate my history more, and see that it was all for a reason. I drank from a greater well of hiddenness in the valleys. I caught some glimpses of the vistas. I refused to sell out my hope. I gave a lot more to God. I put on my lasting, faithful shoes again and again and again and kept getting back up. I chose to get in proximity to the promise, to be at rest in being enough, even in the rejection.
Beauty isn’t cancelled in the darkness. Beauty rises from the agitation needed in the darkness of the developing room.
And like the omniscient, Chief Architect, perfect God that He is, He knew I needed more development. He asked for my willingness to jump right into the deep end, to become the sole care provider for my Mom in the last 7 years of her life. I said yes, not even knowing how hard it would be, and how much I would have to sacrifice to do it. With the amazing support of my husband and children, we walked alongside Mom through her outbursts of anger, through her refusing peace, through her denial of losing independence, through her bouts with dementia-like torments, through her wrestling with God and everyone around her, and through her finally letting go as she passed through the veil to Heaven. Oh patience, great whirlwind of patience! You are a fiery compass of discipleship when I understand you are for me and not against me! Those years were filled with a lot of crushing, impossible moments. But God filled my heart with a tender compassion for seeing her with His lens, loving the seemingly unlovable. In the light of her failures and mine, it really felt like Jesus was standing on the shore in this house, calling to me on my own Sea of Galilee.
You know how He prepares you before a thing before you go through it? I think my Mom coming to live with us was necessary to grow my sea legs, as it were. In that season of having a mission field in front of me, I really learned how to love. And then in January of 2021 He said it was time to face the wall and get started. The net was ready.
Because it was a bridge to my inspiration, the net was a certain episodic mini-series* modeled around the ministry of Jesus and His disciples that has presently captured the attention of the world. We sowed into the series, bought the DVDs, loaded them into our computer, and I watched the first 2 seasons over and over and over again while I worked at the wall. This series was the only backdrop to my work. Without exaggeration, I saturated myself in putting myself in those stories, talking to Jesus, watching each episode upwards of 25+ times each whenever I could work on the wall. Except for episode 4 of season 1, when Simon first sees Jesus, and surrenders his old self to learn how to become a fisher of men. I lost count how many times I let that episode soak in. I lost how many times the waves that refused to give up their treasure, pounding against Simon’s boat, felt like the same battering waters that tried to drown me and steal my breath since I was a small child. I worked through a lot of my issues working on that wall. It was cathartic. It ministered to me. I released a lot of heartache on that wall, washed in the water. Jesus said to Simon, “Follow me… “ Every time I heard the actor say it, Jesus superseded His own voice and held out His hand to me. His love was tangible. I know that I know that I know He was present. His gaze saw me.
The glasswork took several months to complete, and just as I was putting on the last pieces, my Mom left this earth. It was a profound prophetic picture just in that. I still have the grout to do and the other details to add to the frame, but I felt the urgency to post the progress in this timing. If God is speaking to you now, then I know I heard clearly.
Along the way I had to give myself recovery time at the milestones. I stepped back often to assess and fill in the missing peices. I had to handle the other responsibilities in my life, and trust the process. Mom's struggles had punctuated her words over me. At the root, she had been running from her identity in Christ. She had taken every opportunity to try to divide us. I had taken every opportunity to try to see past the chasm she wanted to create, and create an atmosphere that instead seeded truth. I believe God broke through. Much of that was evident in her last days.
Friends, if you’re in the season of your life when you need to dig deep, push up your love sleeves, and show kindness and grace to those who don’t want either from you, God sees you! He loves and understands you more than you could possibly comprehend. You will behold the victory on that mountain, not just when you get through the mountain. God gives you a map and makes a way in every high and low place, and equips your life to be a witness of His glory. Let those seasons in your life teach you, grow you, and be the nets you need to finish well.
“Follow Me” is exactly a crossroads. It's a picture of the unmatched, transforming power of the Cross, calling us into the fullness of our identity in Jesus. The refreshing currents of the river of life flows through the center, where its bridges are the most narrow and intense, creating the footpaths and fires of revival that flow out into the 4 corners of the earth. In those fires, disciples are equipped and runneth over with truth and revelation, nations are changed, and the finishing anointing carries beyond the borders, into the next generations. I pray you receive your own healing in the water and fire of Jesus, too.
May His grace fill you with joy, and His invitation draw out your courage to follow Him in all things.
* I wanted to add this important footnote. The series I mentioned is orchestrated by humans who are from numerous backgrounds and spectrums of belief. Those associated with the series, including the writers, characters, crew, and anyone participating in their social media forums may or may not be pursuing a narrow gate compass, as in Matthew 7:13-14, below:
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad and easy to travel is the path that leads the way to destruction and eternal loss, and there are many who enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow and difficult to travel is the path that leads the way to [everlasting] life, and there are few who find it.
I was touched by the storytelling in the series, and The Follow Me Project is wholly inspired by my personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It's in no way affiliated or flavored by the lives of those working on or around the series. As disciples of Christ, we need to always remember that HE is the One we should set our focus and cornerstone. May we never make Man or his fame an idol and distraction from following after God's set aside and perfectly authored narrow gate path He intended for our life.