Jesus calls all sorts of people to follow him. You needn’t have many degrees or even a high school diploma. A child that dies prematurely at age 9 could already have been an apostle. And she still speaks in her death. Martyrdom in teenage years is not out of the question.
Too often we confound what it means to follow Jesus through insistent lists. With Jesus there is no list unless you consider the truths “he is here, he is good and he is strong” a list. For my part, they are all grace and grace is no list.
The way of Jesus is a way of life and freedom. He calls you to become more yourself, not less. He says to you, “I love you. I just love you. How could I not? I made you. You have so many special things inside you. I know, because I’m the one who put them there in the first place. You are not like the others and that is just how I want it. Listen: John was my Beloved, but Peter was my Rock. I had Sons of Thunder and Scientist Thomas among my closest friends. I included Bureaucrat Matthew (more like Mobster) and Soldier Simon in my new family. I lavish my love on an infinite variety of people. I am able to do this because I AM the Beginning and the End. And keep in mind: I gave up my life for you. It is no heresy to say I would do it again and have done it again. You may not realize it, but every moment of every day I am with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. And I am for you, not against you. You can call out to me anytime you like. Did you wake up at 3:17? When you called me then, I heard.
“By the way, I see your tender heart and that’s just the way I like it: tender. Don’t ever think you need to change that. The world would have you cynical and skeptical, doubting and angry. That is no life. The world would have you compete and compare yourself to others. That is no life. The world would have you think you’re a nobody because you’re not as smart or funny or pretty or handsome or famous or well-spoken or organized or ‘free-spirited’ or ‘relationally-adept’ or ‘mature’ as others. Pay them no mind. Their critiques are nothing. They are blow-hard, hypocritical Pharisees. They would lure you in with their fancy, well-thought-out ideas and then make you a slave to their corporation the very next day. You don’t need to be more like others; you just need to be yourself. Stay true to that and don’t listen to what other people say you need to be. Just listen to what I say and think of you. And I say: you are talented, you are special, you are significant. If you only learn one thing, just learn to be loved by me.”