Don’t worry, I’m really not going to say that much about fish.
I recently started a short devotional study on pursuing God and God’s relentless pursuit of us.
Day 1 started off well enough. Sort of an introduction to the idea of breaking down the things that keep us from pursuing Jesus with our whole hearts.
On Day 2 I read the story of the fishermen turned apostles. After catching more fish than their nets could carry, on command they left them on the shore and quite literally followed this strange preaching man till the end of His days. (Luke 5:4-11) The end of the devotional asked this question: Are you willing to leave everything to pursue Christ?
It’s a worthwhile question and at first I was really into it, challenging myself, would I be willing to leave this or that, things God had given to me along the way, things I felt I deserved? We’re told to count the cost, and I thought that’s what I was doing. But what does the cost of something matter if you don’t take into account the value of what you’re getting? A blender could be dirt cheap, but if all the reviews on Amazon say it breaks after three days of use, the value is not worth the tiny cost. Would you spend $100 on an appliance that had a life-time warranty, an item proven to last and stand the test of time? Maybe. If you had the money. Because that’s something that has obvious value. That’s the whole point of investing right? Putting money into something because you know the value will increase and be worth more if you stick with it.
Moments later I found myself with this prayer, Lord, I want my question to be not, “What are You going to ask me to leave?” but “What are You going to ask me to gain?”
Non-believers often see Christians as carrying with them a list of all the things they can’t do. Christians can’t get drunk, they can’t dress inappropriately, they can’t party. Blah Blah. Let’s not think of ourselves the same way. Instead of feeling burdened everyday by all the things God asked us to leave behind, consider what God is giving you in their place. Yes, these fishermen left their entire livelihood on the banks of the shore that day, but consider what they gained. They may have lost their identity as fishers of fish, but they acquired an identity as fishers of men! An identity given to them from the mouth of Christ. And they immediately became some of the original 12 disciples of our Lord and Savior.
Maybe one day God will ask me to leave behind my livelihood as a teacher and start on a path that seems much less certain. That’s definitely how I felt when I left my home and moved to Uganda. I had no—and quite frankly still don’t have any—idea what He brought me here for. But when asked to follow, you follow. (I like to imagine when I’m finally meeting God face to face and He’s playing back the video tape of all my life choices on his God-sized projector, and hearing Him say in His big God voice, “So here, in 2015, I asked you to follow, and go to Uganda and you were like ‘nah God, I’m cool right here, thanks though,’ What was that about man?”)
Jesus told believers not to look back, not even to go back to their family and say goodbye, but only to pick up and follow Him. (Luke 9:61-62)
Often I miss the things I left. Nights in the kitchen watching America’s Got Talent with my mom. Parades, Cookouts, Thanksgiving with my extended family. Sitting in the church fellowship hall every Sunday connecting with my Grandparents. Long evening discussions with my best friend on a couch in one of our apartments. Just as I’m sure Simon and the sons of Zebedee occasionally missed their quiet mornings on the Lake of Genesaret waiting for fish to wander into their nets— especially in times when Jesus was stirring up major controversy. You think when they were in Jerusalem and Jesus was in the middle of flipping the vendors’ tables in the synagogue, shouting, birds and produce flying everywhere, Simon ever turned to James and said, “Hey man, ever miss those days when all we did was wait for a bite?” I don’t know, but if they were anything like me they did.
The changes in our hearts and lifestyles that God does should surely be celebrated. I was there, now I’m here. I was lost, now I’m found. But I think keeping our eyes fixed to what we have gained is even more vital to our growth as Christians than focusing on what is now behind us. Yes, I sometimes miss my old life. I look back on photos from high school and college and it feels like an utterly different lifetime. But that’s what I had to leave in order to be where I am now, which is living in an extremely beautiful, developing country that forces me to grow in difficult and fantastic ways. I have a fiancé who was raised in a culture so opposite mine, and we teach each other every day. I regularly feel I have a better relationship with my family because I appreciate our phone calls and rare time together so much more than I used to. But most importantly I have a staggering feeling that I am on the cusp of uncovering God’s deep desires for me, and that, I see as a huge gain.