I’m constantly amazed at how people measure their tasks and achievements differently. When talking with soldiers about their PT routines, I might hear them describe the distance that they ran on a particular morning. Others might talk about how much weight they lifted or even how long their workout session lasted. Time, distance, weight, and change in appearance all seem to be measures of success, but they only tell a small portion of the story. A focused view on success neglects the passion, the purpose, and the limits that so often define a larger commitment to wellness, capability, and faithfulness to God and ourselves. Take some of Jesus’ disciples, Simon, Andrew, James, and John for instance. Fisherman who seem to be quite successful in their family fishing businesses suddenly dropping their nets to follow a Rabbi down the beach. As of that morning, these fishermen might have measured their success in a day or a year upon how many fish they caught, how many men it took to haul up a particularly heavy load, or maybe the size of the largest fish caught, knowing it would catch the highest price. Their success was tied directly to what they could pull in with their nets and their hands. Putting their nets down was more than just a rest or a short break, it was a life decision to pursue something more important…or at the least, mysterious. All of a sudden their lives didn’t rely on their catch of fish. Their livelihood wasn’t dependent upon making repairs to the nets and patching up the boats.
This seems to be the point in the story that I struggle over and I am sure that many others might hiccup as well. There is something uncomfortable and disconcerting about a man who will walk away from his work before it’s done. There is something scandalous and disappointing about a pair of sons that will walk away from their father and leave the employees under their care without direction, assistance, or an explanation. They just walk away. From the four young men’s perspective, they can measure their steps following after Jesus. There might be an excitement, a curiosity, or even a stirring within their soul, but for those who are left in the boats or on the beach, I wonder if those measured steps stir feelings of abandonment, uncertainty, fear, or resentment at having to carry on through the day while shouldering more than their share of the work.
If we take these four fishermen and measure the rest of their lives in fish. Following Jesus was a complete failure. They’re quitters and they can’t cut it. Even after Jesus has died and is buried, they need him to rise from the dead and yell from the shore about where to throw their nets before they catch anything of any significance. However, if we measure their lives in faith, these four men don’t abandon their lives; rather, they finally begin uncovering their deep potential and priorities. They being to learn to be fishers of people. They lay down their nets to take up the larger and more meaningful nets of Christ. They were caught up, drawn out, and prepared to become nets themselves– cast out into the world not to trap or capture souls, but to heal, comfort, and speak life into a world drowning in hopelessness, anonymity, and profound discouragement. They begin to measure their lives in faithfulness and sharing their lives with others. Questions about quantity, quality, and distance become less about fish and more about faith. How much of my life am I willing to give? What areas of my life are holding me back? How far down this beach am I willing to follow?
I wonder if that’s a measure of discipleship. Are we becoming a net for those who need the unconditional regard of God or are we back on the beach, too caught up already in our own nets?