Monday, July 6, 2009

An Embrace and a Departure

Something you should know about this bit of writing
I couldn't sleep. I felt weighed down under the breadth and depth of my natural self, which isn't a very pleasant self when you're trying to avoid it. But into my mind popped a little story about a fisherman being called to follow God incarnate. I flipped immediately to Luke, found the section of verses and began to pour out writing like...a writer or something crazy like that. Essentially, what I'm trying to say is that this writing is divinely inspired. I used to not think this could ever happen. But it does. Praise be to the one and only Almighty God whom deserves all our worship and selves! I hope this is as helpful to you to read as it was for me to write. Peace be with you!

A collection of spoils occupies most rooms. Trophies and relics that conjure up memories of battles won and times long past. These things remind us of what we have accomplished, what we have learned, and most importantly, who we believe ourselves to be.

Imagine stepping away from those memories, those shrines we've erected to remember ourselves. It's frightening to wonder who you would be if all your "stuff" wasn't in play, but is that not what Christ asked of us? When we accepted Jesus into our lives and began to hold the Gospel as truth, things had to change. That precedent was set by Christ himself in Luke's account of the calling of the first disciples (and I'm sure among many other places, but for now, this is where I'd like to place my focus).

Jesus comes upon Simon Peter while he, James and John are washing their nets. Jesus, being pressed in by the crowd, asks Simon for one of his boats to teach from. Upon finishing his teaching, Jesus calls to Simon, telling him to place his nets in another location. Keep in mind that Simon and his crew are fishermen by trade and would have known that stretch of sea better than anyone. Jesus, who is at this point a strange rabbi to them (not thought to be a fishing expert) tells them to put the nets in a random spot. Doesn't add up.

But Simon humors Jesus, and to his astonishment, winds up with loads and loads of fish. He proceeds to acknowledge Christ as Lord, claiming the absolute truth that he himself is a sinful man, which in his mind means that the Lord should turn away from him.

My interest peaks here. Simon Peter sees Jesus for who He is (not fully, but enough to realize who he's dealing with) or rather, Jesus reveals Himself (not in His full glory, however) to him. I would have thought that in itself would be enough. That singular recognition is what I ha, for awhile (up until reading some very influential and powerful Christian literature which I will cite later) based my life upon. Knowing who Christ is was enough.

It gets better. Not only does Simon acknowledge Jesus as Lord, he also understands the depth of his inadequacy in Christ's presence:

Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord (Luke 5:8)

Again, I figured this was where the buck stopped. To know who Jesus is and understand that I am wretched and destitute in my heart, at the core of my being, what more could there possibly be to learn? (At this point, I would add that truly knowing Jesus means you would know what comes next.)

As I have lived my life, this was the very end of the line. Without realizing it, life from here looks pretty bleak. Praise be to God that the truth forges on. Jesus, after these two revelations of Simon Peter, speaks to Simon:

Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men (Luke 5:10).

Jesus addresses two very deep longings here, feelings I have felt left untouched and misunderstood my whole life up until now. First, "Do not be afraid...". Jesus calms Simon immediately in his recognition of his sinfulness. Essentially, Jesus says, "Hey man, it's cool, don't trip." (I apologize if this upsets you. For clarity's sake, this is not in the Bible under any translation.) So Simon can relax.

Secondly, "...from now on you will be catching men." Jesus not only tells Simon he can relax (which I believe infers that his sinfulness can be forgiven. Hallelujah!) but he gives him something to do. We call this purpose and meaning, the thing most of us spend our lives looking for. Bam. Christ gives it to Simon Peter on a silver platter (albeit a very challenging dish lies upon that platter, but no one will taste anything closer to the truth than that meal. Mmm delicious.)

That makes three astonishing instances so far (the crux, and most direct part for us to follow coming up, hang in there): 1) Simon recognizes Jesus as the Jesus we know and love, 2) Simon acknowledges his sinfulness, and 3) Jesus puts Simon at ease and gives him a job. Here's the kick in the pants for us:

And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him (Luke 5:11).

Everything. They wrapped up their immediate business, (it would have been tough, though not impossible, to start following while in the middle of the sea. Land is an equally good place to start from) dropped all their relics, trophies, shrines, and memories to follow Jesus.

There is no holding on to what you were. Christ demands the whole of you. Not your weekends and holidays, but your every day. You must give it all up or your soul will be tormented and your heart will never find peace (this, I have experienced. Not pleasant, trust me.) Though following Jesus proved to be the most grueling internship in history, it was only the beginning of the disciples blessed eternal lives.

We too, as Christians in the truest, most ancient sense of the word, have to get this point (among a few others, but this is a good place to start). It is hard, but it's also terribly easy. The door can be revealed to you, but only you can walk through it.

Read these:

Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer


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