Here is a link to our Gospel reading for today from Matthew:
And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. Matthew 4:19-20
I think this is the kind of moment that must have occurred between Jesus and these men. I think that these men must have felt seen and loved in a way that they had never felt seen and loved before. And this was a life-changing moment for them. Suddenly security, comfort, respectability, and pleasantness were no longer the most important goals in life for these men. Suddenly the most important and compelling thing for these men was to follow this man who put them in touch with the God who loved them beyond life itself. Suddenly it seemed to them that the most important thing in the world was to pass this connection, this love, this passion onto others and become fishers of people. What other choice did they have but to immediately put aside everything they had known in order to follow Jesus? In that moment they understood themselves as true and whole human beings and nothing else mattered except to follow Jesus and to share this love with others.
That is what it means to be a disciple or follower of Jesus. It is to open ourselves up to God’s love. It means allowing ourselves to be seen by God and in being seen coming to understand that security, comfort, respectability, pleasantness—none of these things really matter. And, as we come to embrace our belovedness as a child of God, it means going out into the world and seeing others with the same compassion and love and vulnerability with which God sees us. It means seeing those we meet each and every day with Jesus’ eyes. But this is easier said than done.
The first time I remember this happening was during my senior year of college. I was planning to go to law school. It seemed like a good fit for me. I am a pretty logical thinker. It would provide a secure life for me. I was a history major, and if you didn’t want to teach, what else was I supposed to do with a history degree? However, there was a part of me that knew that this wasn’t where my passion really was. But this was the path I had chosen, and I was going to follow that path come hell or high water. Then one day the rector of my parish invited me for lunch. He didn’t say why. I was the head of the Episcopal program at my college, so I just assumed he wanted to talk about an upcoming event that we were planning. So we met in the school dining hall. We ordered our food, sat down, and ate it while making small talk.
I was a little perplexed and was about to ask him if there was some specific reason he had invited me to lunch, when he looked me straight in the eyes and said, “What do you want to do with your life?” I was a little bit taken aback. I think I said something like, “Well you know, law school. Remember, I told you that I just took that LSATs and am working on filling out applications.” He said. “That’s great, but you didn’t really answer me. I am asking you to tell me what it is that is worth committing yourself and your life to. What is it about law school and practicing law that will bring meaning and purpose to your life?” And you know what? I couldn’t answer him.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. This is not a story about why being a lawyer is bad. If you are a lawyer and it brings meaning and purpose to your life, then it is the thing you should be doing. However, my rector must have sensed that I was choosing this career because I was seeking security and an avoidance of pain. He sensed that it was not my beloved self, the part of me that understood that I am a beloved child of God, that was choosing this path, but instead my wounded and protected self, my scarred self that was choosing law school. He saw me. He saw the real me. And then he asked me, “Have you ever considered becoming a priest?” I burst into tears. It can be a little frightening to be truly seen. We build up our protections for a reason. Our protective parts come because we have experienced real wounds and real pain in our lives. But being seen, truly seen, can also be liberating. Being seen, truly seen, can change your life. It certainly changed mine. And what was life changing was not really that I chose a different career that suited me and my personality better. What was life changing was that for a very brief moment I felt seen and loved as God sees and loves me. For a brief moment I understood that God wanted more for me in life than security and an absence of pain.
You are a beloved child of God. No matter what you have been told. No matter what you have done. No matter how life has wounded you and what pain you find yourself living in, God loves you and wants a life for you worthy of your beloved status. God wants a life for you that is bigger than what a secure, comfortable and respectable life could ever offer you.
And Jesus says to you, “Follow me, and I will make you a fisher of people.”