All of my church life, as I’ve sat in mauve upholstered pews or the cold and uncomfortable metal folding chairs of Sunday school, I’ve heard the same story.
You know the one – The backdrop is a quiet lake. Simon Peter and friends are mending their nets beside the shore. Suddenly, a strange bearded man with majestic flowing hair appears – and the fishermen dramatically drop their nets and follow him without question.
I’ve fidgeted behind 30 year old laminate tables across from ladies wearing a little more make-up than normal and middle aged men stuffed into dress shirts. With more awkward silences than not we’ve pondered, we’ve grasped. We’ve squinted up at pedestals and feebly attempted to analyze 2000 year old actions of sandaled saints.
Eventually someone says they don’t know what they’d do if a stranger walked into their job and told them to follow. We cross and recross our legs, bob our heads in agreement. Then we go home and remove our blazers and mascara, convinced we’ll never measure up to the caricatures of bravery that we’ve invented in our storybook Bible.
Sound familiar? Well then I have good news for you. You can quit beating yourself over the head with that pedestal. I have it on good authority that:
The fishermen did not simply drop their nets and follow Jesus. (Gasp. Shock. Awe.)
You see, Simon (Peter)’s brother, Andrew, was a disciple of John the Baptist. John introduced Andrew to Jesus. (John 1:35-40) Andrew hung out with Jesus for a bit then ran and found his brother Simon (Peter) to tell him that he’d found the Messiah and brings Simon to meet him.
Then Jesus goes to a wedding, turns water into wine, yadda yadda. Braids a whip, clears a temple. Confuses Nicodemus with talk about being born again. Talks to a Samaritan woman by a well. You know, stuff like that.
Eventually Jesus finds himself strolling beside the lake and sees a couple of blokes that he’s hung out with before, Andrew and Peter. They’re fishing because, ya know, they’re fishermen. Jesus invites them along with him and they join – after all when a guy that you already believe is the Messiah says something cryptic about fishing for men, you’re likely to take the bait (ha).
They walk around a bit, cast some demons from people. Jesus goes to Peter’s home, rebukes a fever out of his mother-in-law so she can get back in the kitchen where she belongs (kidding).
The next morning Jesus sneaks off to pray and Peter’s all “Hey, everyone’s looking for you, man” and Jesus is all “Let’s go some place else. That’s why I came”.
One day when Jesus is seriously being hounded by a crowd by the shore he sees the boats of some dudes he already knows – yup, you guessed it – Simon and Andrew. He asks to bum their ride for a minute so he can teach the crowd from the safety of the water. When he’s finished speaking to the mulitude he tells Peter to let down his nets again. Peter’s like, “Master, I’ve been fishing all night, but if you say so, then I’ll do it (because I trust you, I’ve followed you around long enough already to know that much).
Bada bing, bada boom, nets nearly break from all the fish, Peter freaks out and realizes anew how awesome Jesus is and what a sinner he himself is. Jesus calms him down and again invites him to follow him and then Peter leaves everything behind.
This order of events is according to a chronological bible, with a bit of my paraphrasing thrown in.
What’s the point? Simply that life is a journey, it’s a series of events. Faith rarely pivots on a singular melodramatic moment in time; Faith grows. (<<click to tweet) It starts with a cornerstone, it develops a foundation, and then it increases one brick at a time.
If you’re familiar with Peter’s story, you’re aware that he still struggled. A lot. His faith grew one mistake at a time. Eventually we get the image of him as a spiritual power house, preaching in Acts with the hem of his garment healing folks. But he didn’t start there – by far. He was just a dude who got roped in by his brother to hanging out with some dude named Jesus.
So, here comes the moral of the story – don’t feel bad about your bricks. Life happens one layer at a time once we have our foundation in place. We stack a row or two of blocks, crack a few, maybe knock down a section with our own bumbling, then we slap on a thin line of cement and start again. Eventually, as we grow in wisdom and power and brick-laying truth, we build can build a faith that’s steady and strong.
Not a pedestal though. Don’t build a pedestal. Those things are dangerous.
*photo by Tatiana Sayig