Leaving your fishing net behind to follow Jesus

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follow Jesus, net with fish in murky water

Have you heard stories of people who shock their friends and families by walking away from fame and fortune? Men who give up family inheritances to help the poor and homeless in their communities? Women who sacrifice promising, lucrative careers as performers, entrepreneurs, and engineers to serve the Lord in religious orders? Young people who walk away from everything familiar to be missionaries to people they know nothing about?

What could make these and others like them give up so much? How can they let go of the things you and I might spend our whole lives seeking? The answer is that they found what they were truly looking for.

In the classic movie, The Bells of St. Mary’s, a confused young girl begs Sister Benedict (Ingrid Bergman) to let her stay at the convent.

“I want to be a nun!” she cries.

Sister Benedict replies that it doesn’t work that way. “It’s not because you’ve lost something. It’s because you’ve found something.”

When we find that something, nothing else will matter to us.

St. Peter, the fisher of men

Fishing was not something St. Peter did as a hobby. It was his livelihood. His family, probably including several generations, likely depended on the money he made from selling his fish. So a day with no catch meant coming home with disappointing news. We read about just such an event in Luke 5. Peter, who worked all night on the sea, had caught no fish. This must have been discouraging and even worrisome.

However, when Peter obeyed Jesus and lowered his nets again, he received more fish than he could ever imagine. In that instant, Peter was a wealthy man! He could have anything he wanted.

But the story takes a twist when Jesus then invites Peter to follow him.

We might imagine that he looked down at the fishing nets in his hands and thought, “Can I take this along with me? Can I take some of it? Can I sell it first and get the money, then follow Jesus?” Or even, “Can I call my wife first and make sure she takes care of this so no one else can steal my catch?”

But Scripture says he left it all behind—immediately—and became a disciple of Christ.

Why? Because Peter realized his heart’s desire wasn’t to catch fish or to be wealthy after all. Whatever it was he was seeking, he recognized it in Jesus.

Following Jesus in your day

Jesus comes to us in similar ways during the day. After trying to solve a problem or reach our goals going our own way, we might decide to follow Jesus’s way. Maybe as an experiment or maybe because we have run out of ideas. When God’s way yields positive results, we now face the invitation, “Follow me.” Jesus gives us a taste of what life is like with him—at least in eternity—and we have to decide if that promise is worth sacrificing our personal goals to discover his goals for us.

This is what we can ask for each day. Like Peter, can we choose Jesus over the one thing (or several things) we think we can’t live without: Coffee? Wine? Your favorite TV show? Winning an argument? Or even bigger things like finding a mate? Having a child? Recovering from a devastating illness or injury? Can I live without this if I have Jesus instead?

If you learn more about St. Peter’s life, you can see it wasn’t always smooth sailing after he made his decision. In fact, it ended brutally. But he had come to understand that nothing in this world is worth holding on to compared to what we gain when we follow Jesus, the One who has the words of everlasting life.

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