Would you give up everything to follow Jesus?
Sheila Jacobs reflects on what this call meant for the first disciples and whether she would have done the same
I’m not great with water – I didn’t enjoy swimming at school, and when I was challenged about getting baptised by full immersion, it took me eighteen months of: ‘But my make-up will run; my hair will look awful; I’ll get wet!’ which of course is not very spiritual, but is the truth. So, I tend to avoid water – boats are nice to look at, I love a sea view, but a closer encounter? I think not. I don’t ‘do’ water. Which is very weird, because when I spend time with Jesus, I tend to think about beaches, lighthouses, boats – nets.
One time, after I’d been reading in the Gospels about Jesus on the shore with his first followers, I imagined what would happen if I was busy washing my nets and he came along and asked me to follow him. I’d like to think I’d have dropped whatever was in my hands and sprung into action saying, ‘You bet!’, but I rather think I’d be looking at my nets, the boat, the people I worked with and cared about, and thinking: ‘Leave it all, Jesus? Leave life as I’ve known it? Is that really necessary? I’m pretty sure I could hang out with you at weekends.’ But of course, God isn’t like that. He’s: ‘Are you all in, or are you all out?’ which I admit I have a constant battle with.
I don’t know what ‘nets’ mean to you. Maybe there’s something you’re holding onto a bit too tightly. I guess it’s all about trusting the One who’s asking us to let go.
Two of Jesus’ first friends, in John 1:35-39, had begun to follow Jesus, but hadn’t apparently had a closer encounter with him yet. ‘We want to see where you’re staying,’ they tell him. ‘We want to know who you are, what you’re all about.’ The only way to really know anybody – and therefore, to trust them – is to spend time with them.
From that encounter, one of them invites his brother to come and experience what he has found. Then, as we read on, we see cynical Nathanael invited to meet Jesus. ‘What?’ he says. ‘You’re kidding me. Nazareth! Can anything really good come from there?’ But God works in the most unpromising places and the most unpromising people (thankfully). Nathanael has an encounter with the God who ‘sees’ him and everything changes – as it does when we realise God ‘sees’ us personally, uniquely; the quiet acceptance of Jesus, Lord of all.
I spend so much time fretting – worrying about the future, what Christmas is going to look like this year, the frustration of not being able to plan ahead amidst the pandemic. I also tend to grasp at things that are, in essence, unimportant. With the busyness of ‘cleaning my nets’, the all-consuming everyday tasks, I often forget to sit and wait awhile with the One who knows the future, as well as my past.
‘Let go,’ he says, ‘of whatever it is you’re holding onto that prevents you from following more closely.’
Do I trust you enough, Jesus, to let go of my worries, my fears, my future? My expectations, ambitions? Life as I’ve known it? Do I trust your love for me? Maybe you want me to put these things down, to see if they’re more important to me than you are. Hmm. Perhaps a closer encounter is what I need today, after all.
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