Mark 1:16-18 has taken on a new meaning to me lately. I’ve been struck by how not ready I was to drop my “nets” and follow immediately when the time came to respond to the call:
“And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him.” (NKJV)
After my interview with Florida Baptist Children’s Homes (FBCH) in mid-June, I just had a feeling relocating to Florida was going to be our next step. Everything about the Orphan Care Coordinator position had my name on; in fact, as friends and family read the job description the comment was always the same – “it’s like this job was made just for you.”
We came home from vacation in June and I spent the next 6 weeks cleaning closets, downsizing, and getting us prepared…..just in case. We pondered the call: what does that look like and how do we make it happen? When FBCH did offer me the position at the end of July, I spent another week pondering the call and the next 3 weeks packing, selling, downsizing more, and messing around with all of our “nets”. Finally, we schlepped our stuff 1000 miles in a 26-foot moving truck and then spent the next 3 weeks unpacking, downsizing even more, and getting settled into our new home.
By my count, I spent 3 months of my full-time energy pondering the possibility and dealing with my stuff in order to “follow immediately”. And this troubles me.
This experience helps me frame Mark 10:17-27 in a different light now. It’s not that the rich young ruler didn’t love the Lord and wanted to follow him. Rather, it’s just really hard when you are loaded down with earthly treasures. I don’t mean to oversimplify this passage, because I know there is more going on here regarding salvation, but let’s focus on verses 24 and 25 a minute: “Children, how hard is it for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (NKJV, emphasis added). This verse isn’t some riddle about a camel going through the actual eye of a needle, it is referring to a city gate camels needed to pass through, and when they were loaded down with “stuff” it was impossible to enter.
The point I’m making here is that our “stuff”, our earthly treasures, the accumulations of trinkets from living in a post-modern consumerist culture (ouch!) often makes it really hard to follow immediately. It’s not that we are rich by today’s standards, but we are burdened down by the stuff of life. After rounds of downsizing, I still needed a 26-foot moving truck to follow my call, which I’m pretty sure wouldn’t even fit on the back of a camel much less pass through the eye of the needle gate! I believe this is the timeless truth Jesus is making here: we so easily get burdened down by the cares of this world (Heb.12:1), and sadly too often measure our treasure by things (Matt 6:19), that sometimes we miss the invitation to follow when it finally does come.
I’m certainly not saying we can’t have possessions; not everyone is called to live on a mission’s field. I believe putting down roots and getting established in a community is critical to the Kingdom’s mandate to transform the earth. Certainly, that has been the call on my family for the last generation regarding the city of Collinsville. But, we are all called to walk away from the cares of our lives and follow Jesus. To follow immediately begs us to be ready. What does your call look like? Are you ready?