This topic has generated some deep and really personal conversation. Do I have to leave my job? Is it different for those with families vs. those who are more flexible? Must I "go" at all? Do I just need to be open to what the Spirit might be saying to me? Can I follow right here in my own life?
As I continue to reflect on this, I think we have a tendency to over focus on the big, extreme things. It's too easy to feel that unless I change everything and give up my daily life it isn't enough, or to figure that I can't leave my nets so I can't do anything. We naturally want to focus on what we do, on who we are in the world.
The call of Peter and company, the story of dropping their nets and following, is getting at something much more central and basic to us:
Following Jesus starts with a recognition that our lives are not our own, but Christ's.When Jesus walked down the shore and these young men turned their back on fishing, their purpose changed more than their occupation. They were no longer just fishermen, whose goal was to bring in a catch. They were now followers of a teacher, whose purpose was to help him change lives and all of history.
There are certainly glimpses in later scripture of these same men out in the boat, putting down and pulling up nets, and cooking fish for breakfast to suggest that they still plied their old trade at least occasionally. But they were not the same old fishermen (just like Jesus was no longer just Joe-the-carpenter's son).
Following meant they had signed on to a mission that was larger than them, and that affected where they went and what they did.That mission allows us to live purposefully, to ask purposeful questions, and to make intentional changes to our lives to align with that purpose. But that wrestling and "going" only makes sense in light of the bigger recognition that our lives are not our own but God's.
But once we recognize that we are part of something so much bigger than just us, we can live "on call" in the midst of whatever we are doing. Once we believe Jesus when he says "the kingdom of God is within you," once we accept his invitation to help bring that kingdom into our daily reality, we can follow whether we sell it all and move to Africa or raise a family in Bucks County.