No doubt, having read the Gospels, you know these words: "At once, they left everything and followed Him." We're talking, of course, about the disciples.
I don't know what kind of mental image these words have created for you. For me, when I read about the two sons in the boat who hear Jesus calling out to them, I think of them jumping out without second thought and swimming to shore. I think about Simon and Andrew gingerly laying their nets on shore and walking away. I think about Matthew closing up his collector's box and leaving the table. That's my gut reaction, anyway.
The Scriptures indicate that I can't be far off. This morning in Luke, I read about the calling of Simon and Andrew, James and John. They hauled in a great catch of fish and were washing their nets when Jesus called them. Luke says, "They left their nets on the shore and followed Him."
Do you understand the implications of that? I didn't, not until this morning. I always thought it was a cool measure of faith, an awesome image this painted in my head, but I didn't get it until I started wondering about the way I follow and realizing how entirely different it is.
Because here's how I would have been, assuming I would have been a fisherman:
I'm in my boat and haven't caught a thing all day. (Now, this sounds like me fishing!) Suddenly, a guy tells me to try one more time, and I do, primarily because I don't like to feel like I've wasted a day or like I've failed at the very thing I'm supposed to be doing. So I cast out my net again and it's full. Together with my crew, we haul the nets to shore and start cleaning our catch. We don't bother washing our nets because we're just going to throw them back in the water tomorrow. Isn't that the same thing? And then this very man says, "Leave that and follow me." And maybe my crew goes, but I'm busy. When I'm done being busy, I'll come find you. But not until I carefully fold my net, return it to my home, and tuck it away because I may need it again one day and nets are expensive. Once all that is done, I'll come find you, Jesus. Promise.
Or suppose I were a tax collector, better known as a tax cheat. I've invested a lot in getting the monies in my little box and this man comes along and says, "Forget all that. Follow me." Sure, sure, I reply. I'm coming. But not before I close my little box, carry it to the bank, and invest the monies I've skimmed my from fellow Galileans because that's my money and I may need it one day. Then I will fold my table, stash my chair, and I'll come find you, Jesus. Promise.
You see, my life when I follow is not abandoned. My life when I follow is tucked away. I'm not proud of it, but that's how it is, and I'm guessing I'm not alone in that. The problem is that when I've got my former self tucked away, I cannot make a full investment in God. Because He's not everything I've got.
The beauty of the way the disciples did it is that if they decided to leave, if they decided to go back, if Andrew and Simon, James and John wanted to fish again, they'd have to start over. By whatever time they left, their nets would be long gone, taken up by other fishermen just trying to make a wage. They'd have to buy new nets. Their boats would not be safely tied in the dock where they left them. They'd have to buy a new boat. Their waters, their "spot" in the sea, would have been taken by a new crew, someone else trolling the waters for a measly day's pay. They'd have to find a new sea. When they left everything as it was and abandoned life as they knew it, they freed themselves to fully invest in something. And if they ever leave that, they'll have to make another investment. It's beautiful.
But the truth is that even if you're like me, you'd never use those nets again anyway. You'd never go back to just fishing. You couldn't. Like I mentioned yesterday with Brooks Hatlen - it's familiar, but it doesn't work any more. If I pulled that folded net out of my closet, pushed a carefully-docked boat back out to sea, went back to my familiar waters, it would somehow now be missing something. Something vital. Something...holy...that for the life of me, I couldn't shake the memory of. Because now I know better, and even if the Jesus thing didn't feel like it was working, this isn't either and I have to make an investment in something new anyway, even after all the care I took to have something to go back to.
Why not make that investment now, in the life God is calling me to? Fully and wholly, this former life not tucked away, but abandoned. Left on the shore for some other fisherman to pick up and set out.
While I set my feet to a new journey. I'm a fisher of men. No net required.