Early one morning, as my car’s headlights weaved around one mountain curve after another, a song on the radio caught my attention. The pleasing melody, like the pre-dawn somberness, melded together, finding its way into my soul. As I listened, the words began to speak to me.
They were fishermen, ordinary simple men.
A lot like you, a lot like me.
They were fishermen; Jesus chose to follow him
Go cast your nets out on the sea.
Go cast your nets out on the sea.
Men of few possessions, not men of wealth or fame.
Had no education, no titles by their name.
Yet it was they who answered and left to go with him
When Jesus said, I call you to be fishers of men.
Arriving early on campus, there is a calming tranquility that permeates the early morning darkness. Students sparsely ramble about, some seeking food from the dining hall, others are trying to make it back to their dorms after pulling an all-nighter before that 8:00 AM class. The only sounds are from the facility’s crews that prepare each day like the day before – utility and garbage trucks making their rounds. To be here before the sun rises adds another sense of peace to a place that becomes a pulsating, vibrant community by mid-afternoon on warm sunny days. In this time of respite, there is room to breathe, air to think. Here, the ponderings of living begin to percolate into the consciousness, and the Lord begins to speak.
Once more, in this life, I find myself a college student (albeit part-time). There is a purpose for why I’m here. God’s plans are never our own. The thought of how and why seldom seem to leave the cusp of my thoughts. In so doing, I make it a point to remind myself of the “why.” At my age, one might be looking forward to retirement. But for some reason, God has made me different. I look at the short time I have remaining on this earth and feel the urgency to strive ever more to fulfill His purpose in the path He has set before me.
As a college student striving to fulfill one’s purpose, every day is an unending stream of information, tests, and trials through which one must struggle. We all should strive every day to make the most of whatever we do as if we are serving God and not those who write our paycheck or grading our tests. “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” So it is with this in mind that I seek not to complain, not to panic when I feel inadequately prepared for an upcoming quiz, nor to worry about grades. No, my goal is to learn as much as possible with an eye to returning to the classroom, to someday teach once again – for that purpose, to be there for these students is what drives me onward. Those short three years when I served at the High School were a never-ending stream of caring, loving, and nurturing the students who had been placed into my care. Some of them still keep in touch, which warms my heart with each distant hello.
A career of working in the computer/network-based industry had provided me the basis for obtaining my current career position. The landing of that position was as much a testimony as to all the others before it – a story for another time. But before being the System Administrator here at App’s Computer Science department, there were many years in which my career interfaced with technologies and applications that are usually the end-point for someone attending college. My journey has somewhat physically been the reverse. Over time, all of those various computer architectures, operating systems, and protocol languages created in me a wealth of information – knowingly or not.
However, unlike those beginning disciples to whom Jesus called, my slate is not empty. Similarly, the students around me don’t have to wade through years of industry knowledge and similar-sounding acronyms, which now I’m being taught stand for something new. As those fishermen left their nets behind, they had an open mind and weren’t clouded by the teachings and intense studies, as were their counterparts who persecuted Jesus, the Pharisees. No, these were simple men. They were ordinary men who worked day-to-day to feed their families and provide for their community. They had no preconceived interpretations as did their counterparts but were open to the words which Jesus spoke.
In the Air Force Basic Training, we were taught to shoot an M16, the rifle of choice in the early ’80s. As the Training Instructor (TI) was going over the presentation, he clearly stated, “Raise your hand if you have ever hunted or learned to shoot a weapon at home.” Of course, over half the class raised their hands. He then continued, “Those of you who raised your hands will most likely not make Marksman.” Now, the word “Marksman” was a badge of honor to a young man. It meant that, even though you were merely an Air Force serviceman, you would have something to say to the world, “Hey, look at me, I’m a good shot with an M16.” Ribbons, which were the badges of honor to the entry-level airman, were much-coveted, so the more you could earn, the prouder your chest became.
The Sergeant went on to explain why he made such a deflating comment. “You see, when you learn to shoot at home, you develop your own style, your own habits begin to form. When we get out there on that shooting range, those old habits will be hard to break. Although we’ll show you the right way, those preconceived practices will hinder your ability to follow through with the new instruction, and as such, you will fail.” As much as I tried to listen and obey, I too fell short and missed Marksman by a few points. It was the same concept with those disciples whom Jesus had chosen. They were not encumbered with the wealth of knowledge that prevented the Pharisees from seeing who he was. Even if the Pharisees wanted to believe, they could not clear their minds enough to accept the mind-altering concepts Jesus delivered.
Take Nicodemus, for one. He was an esteemed leader of the Jews and one of the Sanhedrin, one of the highest orders of the Jewish Rabbinical Judges. He sought out Jesus at least one recorded evening after dark. Some speculate this was to protect himself from being caught with Christ so as not to tarnish his reputation. Others believe that it was because that most scholars of that time did most of their intense study after dark when the surrounding communities would become quieter and the air was cooler. Here, under the cover of night, the ruler of the Jews met with Jesus and struggled to understand how he, an old man, could be born again. “How can these things be,” Nicodemus asked Christ. Jesus responded with, “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?” Nicodemus never became a disciple, but we know that he never gave up following the life of Jesus. He was even credited with contributing to the burial of Christ about a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes, demonstrating a verifiable act of love toward the Savior.
If you are blessed enough to reach advancing years in age, you can be afforded the opportunity to look back and marvel at the journey. In this reminiscent vein, you can see how God has often used not only yourself but also those around you. Myself, being a child from an impoverished farming family, there were never any dreams that could have manifested themselves into the life I now lead.
How many of you would have ever envisioned yourself being where you are now in life?
My family never lacked for anything, but we were not rich by Wall Street’s standards. Our bountiful living came from God’s providence, his creation, and the devotion that endured for generations. From that bedrock faith of my youth to the uncharted waters my footsteps find themselves upon today, there has and will always be that guiding light. As He has spoken to many so many times before, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”
We are all made different. Our paths to life eternal are never the same. But we can take comfort in knowing that we don’t have to have credentials behind our name. We don’t have to have an extensive portfolio nor earthly wealth and fame to have a relationship with the Lord. All it takes is that we step down from our pedestals and open our minds so that we can receive the truth and the way to life eternal. In other words, we must wipe our slates clean and humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord. It is written in scripture, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
Jesus wasn’t looking for supermen when he found his disciples; he was only looking for one thing – simple men who would become fishers of men.
Yes, Jesus chose fishermen; they were a lot like you and a lot like me.
Thanks be to God.