I headed off to college with dreams of pursuing a degree in English Literature and Writing and spending a semester studying abroad in London while visiting the homes of the world’s greatest literary giants. My dreams were short-lived, however. Not only did I recognize after three weeks of classes that the life of an English major was not for me, but I also realized that being away from my family was going to be the most difficult transition of my life. The two hour distance separating me from the rural farmlands of home might as well have been another world away. Friday nights at home were glorious, but I wept each time Sunday afternoon came around and the dreaded drive back to school approached. The thought of leaving my dear ones yet again for my lonely freshman existence was quite dreadful!
That’s why the story of James and John following Jesus fills me with a sense of awe and wonder. These brothers were mending nets in a boat with their dad one day. I can only imagine the camaraderie among these fellas as they labored together patiently under the warm Mediterranean sun. But their sweet time and work together came to a standstill when they heard Jesus call to them. Matthew tells us that “Immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him” (4:22). Leaving the comforts of the work and water they knew so well can’t have been easy. But the fact that they left that familiar life without hesitation really catches my attention. When I reflect on the Sundays of my freshman year, I don’t know if even Jesus himself could have compelled me to leave the comforts of home sooner than I had to!
Maybe there is more to this story of the brave disciples than first meets the eye. Perhaps life on the sea wasn’t everything James and John had ever dreamed of. Was mending nets just a comfortable job that they clung to for security though their hearts longed to do more? Did working closely with their father put a strain on this relationship and cause tensions in the family? Had these brothers passed up on opportunities to trustingly follow God away from the familiar comforts of home and pursue holiness elsewhere? We may never know what prompted the brave “Yes” these brothers showed on the seashore that day, but we can learn much from their humble faith.
It can be tempting to stay in the familiarity of relationships, careers, habits, or situations that aren’t the best for us because we grow comfortable with what we know. We would rather shuffle around in the darkness we know than dare to take a step into the unfamiliar light that Jesus invites us into. Change can be terrifying! But when we recognize the Light of the world and trust in His goodness, we needn’t fear anyone nor be afraid (Psalm 27:1).
Since my fretful freshman year, being away from home has become a bit easier (thank You, Jesus!) Reflecting on my college experiences, I can claim Isaiah’s words as my own: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing” (Isaiah 9:2). And His light is the one that is leading us all to our heavenly Home!
How is Jesus calling you to follow Him today? What do you need to leave behind to pursue His love and mercy more deeply?
May our hearts be filled with faith and courage as we take that step today with great trust!
About the Author:
Kate Anderson is a young Catholic with an old soul. After earning her Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communication from Bethel University this spring, she will pursue meaningful work in public relations, human resources, or event management. Kate enjoys playing the piano, conversing with kindred spirits over warm beverages, and reading spiritual books.