Leaving behind our fish

My writing prompt this week is about letting something go. What have I let go? 

A couple of years ago on another blog, I wrote a lament about living far away from family. I understand the sacrifice of “letting go” theoretically and even theologically but not always emotionally. Now and then, especially when I’m homesick, I renew my lament. Yes, I love the life God has given me and the deep and beautiful blessings that come along with it, but it doesn’t mean it’s always easy. 

Sometimes even the wonderful, valuable gifts in this life are things we must let go, things God asks us to miss out on. So we watch from afar with palms pressed against the window pane that divides something we long for from our reality.

We all have laments, don’t we? Things we miss out on because we have counted the cost and decided to follow Jesus.

I won’t elaborate on this particular lament. I’ve done it in pieces on my blog: here, here, here, here, here, and here (oops, I didn’t realize there would be so many “here”s). The writing prompt reminded me of a passage I recently read, a passage I still need time to think through. Below, I have retold the story from Luke 5:1-11. I hope the story touches a dark corner of your heart like it touched mine. What do I need to let go? Really let go? Can I believe that Jesus is worth it?

May the victory of Jesus’ death and resurrection fill your life to overflowing.

The Lord is risen!


They were tired when Jesus came. It had been a long night with no fish. No fish meant no market. No market meant no income. No income meant, well, not much of anything.

He was a bit strange, this Jesus, climbing on board Peter’s boat to talk to the crowd. A few people began to splash into the lake to be close to him, and it was then that Jesus quietly asked Peter to push out just a little from the land. Peter gladly gave up his task of washing the fishing nets to hear for himself why so many people were following this Teacher around.

Jesus taught in language that was both simple and profound. The crowd pressed against the shoreline, engaged, spell-bound even. When Jesus was done teaching, he turned to Peter and said, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

They had already tried that. All night, actually. So Peter said, “Master, we worked all night and caught nothing! But if you say so, I will let down the nets.” 

The nets slipped in the water with the familiar creaking of ropes. A creaking of familiar hopelessness.

And then their nets were breaking, splitting with the load of fish! It took a moment to understand what was happening, so astonished were they. “Help!” they cried to a nearby boat. Soon both boats were overflowing. They began to take on water.

Excitement and wonder were thick in the air. Peter and his companions, James and John, stared at this Teacher, this Master, who seemed to have power over creation. Overcome, Peter fell down at Jesus’ knees. “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

“Do not be afraid,” said Jesus. “From now on you will be catching men.”

They rowed to the shore as their boats sank lower and lower in the sea. Those from the crowd who had not yet dispersed stood on the shore, gawking as the water lapped at their ankles. 

Fish meant market. Market meant income. Income meant, well, anything.

But they left their boats, their nets, their fish and followed Jesus because He was everything.


Photo by Cassiano Psomas on Unsplash

To the land that I will show you

When Abram was called by God in Genesis 12, he wasn’t called to a specific country. God didn’t say, “Abram, go to China.” Neither did God say, “There you will use your gifts of teaching and discipling by starting a language center and a church.”

Abram went with no country in mind and no idea of how to plug into his new world. He didn’t even know what linguistic and cultural barriers he would face. Plus, he was 75-years-old.

But he went in obedience because that was really all he had. He didn’t update his facebook or keep a blog to tell the world what a great job he was doing. He probably never even communicated with home again.

And then, to top it all off, within a short time of his being on the field, the land was hit with famine. The Bible doesn’t record the thoughts that would have gone through my mind: “Am I sure that God led me here? These people and this place were never really on my heart before I got here. Maybe I heard God wrong. Maybe He meant I should move down the street, not leave my home country.”

Perhaps the Bible doesn’t record those thoughts because Abram didn’t really have them. He struggled with faith in other areas at other times, but this whole “going” thing seems to be one thing he was really good at. Going and not looking back. Not doubting his calling or God’s promises even when the hard times came.

I’m a good person

“You’re the perfect Muslim.”

“Huh?”

“Yah, except that you’re not a Muslim.” My friend began to list the ways in which I fulfilled the religious requirements: “You pray. You don’t lie or cheat. You dress modestly…”

She wasn’t talking about my heart; she was talking about my actions. And she wasn’t the first person to praise me for things I do right.

When I hear continual praises of my good deeds, it is easy to internally echo what I’m hearing. “Yes, I am pretty good. I pray. I don’t lie or cheat…”

Essentially, it is easy to forget this: if not motivated by my love for God, my good deeds mean nothing. The blackness of my heart only blackens as I bow to the idol of man’s praise.

I protested to my friend’s assessment of my character. However, she insisted that my heart is inherently good and that is why I do good things.

People will continue to praise me because they like to believe that I am being good on my own. They like to think that being “perfect” is humanly achievable. But when they walk away from an encounter with me, I want them to be praising God, not me.

On a roll

If I would have been Elijah, 51 more people would have died.

When Ahaziah, King of Judah fell through a lattice and lay sick in his bed, he wanted to know if he would live. “Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron,” he told his messengers.

But on the way, Elijah intercepted the messengers to give the king a word from the Lord: “You shall surely die.”

King Ahaziah wasn’t happy with this meddling in his affairs and he sent out a captain with his 50 men to fetch Elijah from where he sat on top of a hill. Elijah responded by calling down fire from heaven and consuming the 51 men.

But the king didn’t give up. He sent another captain and 50 men. These also were consumed by fire from heaven.

And still King Ahaziah didn’t give up.

If I had been Elijah and seen the third party of 51 men approaching me, I would have sighed, “Yes, Lord, I know the routine. Fire from heaven.”

But the third captain fell on his knees and pleaded, “O man of God, please let my life, and the life of these fifty servants of yours, be precious in your sight.”

Elijah had executed God’s will on the former two occasions. Why would God want anything different this time?

That’s why I say that if I had been Elijah, 51 more people would have died. Or at least I would have attempted to call down the same fire from heaven. I would have been on a roll.

I often think about this story when I’m tempted to make a “policy” on how to treat a certain category of people: persistent beggars, inappropriate men, meddling taxi drivers, aggressive women, etc. Yet, God showed Elijah the Tishbite how important it was to listen to His voice in every situation. Likewise, God may want me to say a certain thing to one aggressive woman and want me to keep silent with the next. The point isn’t to get energized by being “on a roll” but to listen in each situation.

Yes, always listening can be exhausting, especially when we hear commands we don’t want to obey. When Elijah heard the angel of the Lord say, “Go down with him; do not be afraid of him” it may have crossed his mind that calling down fire from heaven would have been less of a hassle. But he still went. He still listened.

(2 Kings 1)


Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Blessed are they that budge

Blessed are they that budge for they shall be first in line.

If that’s not a North African proverb, it should be. Some days instead of the one being budged, I want to be the one budging. Let them see how it feels for once.

But I know that’s a selfish attitude. So the question lingers: How exactly do I cope in such a pushy culture?

For example, standing in line at a shop today, the owner served the 5 pushy people behind me before he fetched what I asked for. Then I stood with my money on the counter while he served the next 10 pushy people behind me.

It wasn’t until I said, “Take this, sir!” that he turned to me and apologized. I wasn’t even tempted to give him the customary, “No problem.” My inflamed temper wanted to clear the crowd at the counter with a giant push and then hurl my unpurchased items at the shop owner. I could even envision myself stomping out, bellowing that I would never return.

How should I have acted? Really, the question is: How should I act? This isn’t a one time occurrence but a constant cultural barrier for me. In my 9 months here, I have met few truly courteous strangers; most courtesy turns out to be greediness in disguise.

This is one of the only things in this culture of which I cannot even glimpse a bright side. So, practically speaking, what should I do? Hang around a shop until the owner notices and takes pity on me? Disobey God’s command to love others as myself and begin pushing like everyone else?

Well, maybe my first step is to stop gritting my teeth when people infringe on my right to be served before them.

I will be with you

I’m not worthy to walk in the way God has called me. Tonight I begged for a confirmation, selfishly desiring a dream or a voice from heaven telling me that the gifts He has given me are perfect for the task.

Instead, in the midst of my tears, He reminded me of Moses’ calling. The conversation between God and Moses in Exodus 3 went like this:

“Come, I will send you.”
“Who am I, God?”
“I will be with you.”

There is no affirmation of self-worth; just the power of God in me.


Photo by Jonathan Cooper on Unsplash