It is hard to believe that in less than a month Brandon and I will be the parents of an eight year old— Eight! That means we now have two in the grade school age bracket, 8 and 6. What a crazy ride parenthood is, we are so blessed. Micah and Graham are close enough in age (just 21 months apart) that they have already developed the competitive streak. We are already hearing comments about how “I am not as fast as him” or “he is a better reader than me” or “why can’t I build legos as good as him?” It is amazing how early we begin to question our own abilities and feel that we aren’t good enough.
I was struck this past week as we were preparing for leading worship, by a text that I have read many times but has never spoken to me in quite the same way before. The passage we focused on last week was Matthew chapter 4 verses 18-23. It takes place early in Jesus’ ministry. He relocated to a small fishing town named Capernum and as he is walking by the lake he sees two brothers fishing- they were fishermen by trade. I imagine Jesus’ casually walking up to the two brothers, he nonchalantly tells them “set down your nets, come follow me and I will make you fishers of people”. There must have been something there in his eyes, something about the way he looks, something about the tone of his voice— the men lay down their nets and they don’t look back. They become two of Jesus’ disciples, two of his best friends, and they spend the majority of the next three years learning from him.
I have always found the text inspiring, but what struck me this time was that Jesus speaks their language. Jesus was raised by a carpenter, we can assume that he knew that trade well. He could school people on precision cuts and how to keep a table level, or how to build a structure that would hold weight. He wasn’t a fisherman by trade. He grew up in Nazareth, a town not situated by water— fishing wasn’t something he would have known well. But that is God for you, he doesn’t approach the two brothers and say “Hey guys, leave this life of fishing behind. Sure it is the only way of life you know, but I have something better. Come build with me. I am a master builder, I can show you how we can make something that will last forever.” I wonder what would have happened if that is what Jesus had said. Something so foreign to the brothers, something so other. They probably knew nothing about building, how on earth could they give up the reliability of fishing and trust that this this endeavor would be better. We don’t need to speculate, because what Jesus did was better. He knew these men, he knew their passions, he knew that fishing was in their blood, the thrill and need for the catch ran through their veins. He wasn’t asking them to be something they weren’t, he was inviting them to bring their authentic selves, their gifts as fisherman to a new way of life. He saw them. He invited them. Not expecting them to magically transform to carpenters, but to use the skills they have to serve God in a new way that would be life giving and world changing.
I hope that as my boys can continue to grow, I as their parent, can convey that simple truth— being authentically Micah and Graham is all that God desires from them. They don’t need to be more like their brother, or as good at something as one of their classmates— they are only asked to be the best, most authentic them they are able to be. And God will use that. One day while Graham is building one of his ridiculously awesome lego creations, he may hear God whisper to him “Graham, do you see how you use your creativity to put those bricks together to make something new, and different, and beautiful? If you want, I can show you how to apply that same creativity and imagination to helping people and building a community that is equally new, and different, and beautiful.” Or while Micah is running at his top speed he may hear God whisper “The strength, drive, and determination needed to run a race is the same strength, drive, and determination I am looking for to lead people to a better way of life— what do you think? Are you up for it?”
Jesus doesn’t expect us to deny the gifts and talents that make us uniquely who we are and develop into a carbon copy of the perfect Christian or the template for success. God is the creator of those gifts and talents. God sees us. God knows us. God desires to use the special mix that is us to change the world and God will show us how through quiet invitation that intersect with our lives in ways we will never expect. May you know that being authentically you is all that God desires. Don’t read the “all” in a way that suggest that God is settling for you, but read it as it is God’s deepest desire, God’s ultimate happiness for each of us to discover our uniqueness and know that we are perfect in God’s sight. You are a gift to this world. I pray you know that truth.