By Jason Wright
Don't you just love commas?
The little periods with tiny tails give great meter and rhythm to writing. They can do the same for speaking -- acting as a breath, the pause or that pivot from one audience member to another.
Because I'm chummy with the comma and his colleagues in the industry, I often pay extra attention to punctuation during personal scripture study. While I try not to read too much into every period, semicolon or exclamation point, I do appreciate how often a perfectly placed piece of punctuation helps me liken the scriptures unto myself.
A few weeks ago I highlighted a comma that I've read many times but never really seen. No doubt you've read it, too.
In Luke 18, the savior says: "Come, follow me."
(While it's impossible to know when the comma was added -- ancient Hebrew and Greek manuscripts used little or no punctuation -- we know the comma was there in the first authorized King James edition in 1611.)
This sacred invitation is also the title of one of my favorite hymns. I've read the words. I've said the words. I've sung the words. So how have I missed that gorgeous comma?
Try this: say the phrase aloud and take a breath, as we should, after the comma.
It's not one invitation, is it?
The first is simply "to come." In gospel context, that might mean to get out of bed, come to church, come to Sunday school, come to your leadership meetings, come on a mission, come to conference, come to the retreat, etc.
It's an important first step in following the savior's example. But it's not enough.
As a teen, I was pretty good at the first half of "come, follow me."
I was usually where I needed to be: in class on Sunday, in seminary, in sacrament service, etc. But I wish I'd seen the comma all those years ago, because the savior didn't say we should simply "come," he said once we're there, we should "follow him."
For that young Jason, what could that have looked like?
It would've been much more than just coming to church. It would have meant following the sacramental ordinance by being focused and more reverent. It might have been demonstrated by always being on time for seminary, awake, prepared and active in the discussions.
It would have meant much more than just checking a box for church responsibilities. Following him would mean truly loving and serving my neighbors and not just saying the word "charity," but practicing it.
Depending on where we are in our own spiritual progression, perhaps just coming to church, or the picnic or being dragged to the retreat or special conference is all we can do today. Life's many stresses and pressures make it difficult enough to get there; the following is even harder. It's God's wisdom that each of us progress at our own pace in our own time.
But as we grow in the gospel, line upon line and precept upon precept, we might recognize that while showing up is an important first step, truly becoming like him is so much more.
We also might remember that the real power isn't just in the words, it's in the message. Why does he invite us to follow him? Because he knows we're capable of it.
He has faith in us!
He believes in us!
Try it again: Say that phrase, three of the most beautiful words Jesus Christ spoke during his mortal ministry.
"Come, follow me."
And remember that when we're ready to engage not just in the church, but in his gospel, there's so much more to this invitation.
Remember the comma.
Jason F. Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of 10 books, including "Christmas Jars," "The Wednesday Letters" and "The 13th Day of Christmas." He can be reached at email@example.com or http://www.jasonfwright.com.