Throughout college and in the post-college years many people have told me to “try something new,” “take risks,” and “don’t leave any regrets.” The “good life” is pitched as hopping from job to job, traveling from country to country, in a who-knows-how-long Wanderjahr. The globalized world is our oyster.
I have recently read A Journey Worth Taking, a book on meaning and calling by Pastor Charles Drew. The book showed me that behind the wanderlust-talk is a lot of FOMO (fear of missing out). If I pursue one track, I might close myself off to another and be bound by the consequences of my decisions forever. Trade-offs are scary. Can’t it be “both / and”? Can’t we always have it all?
Hardly anyone talks about risk-taking in terms of staying-put, of being fully present and committed to limits: a place, a community, or line of work. Staying-put might be the greatest, most courageous risk of all, if one wanted to use risk as one’s criterion for decision-making. Of course, the question is: what are the right criteria?
For Christians, we don’t have to worry about adopting the bird’s eye-view from which we can weigh all the options and their possible implications; that perspective is God’s. He will make the necessary calculations, weaving all the little threads of our lives into the grand tapestry. We just need to heed his call. The right criterion is simply whether or not he has called us to it.
But the task of listening sensitively to God’s call can still be fairly stressful, especially if he is not saying much. Life would be much easier if Jesus just showed up and told us what to do with our lives, as he did to Simon, James and John, asking them to follow him and become “fishers of men.”
We forget that before that grand call, Jesus had issued another, simpler call to Simon: “put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” It is a bit of a ludicrous command, as Simon’s protest makes clear: “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.” But he obeys and somehow catches enough fish to fill two boats. It is a miracle that attests to Jesus’ divinity and brings Simon to his knees, exclaiming, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”
It was a bad night of fishing for Simon. He could have been wringing his hands on whether he should remain in the fishing industry and anxiously wondering what he might be missing out on in other professions. But through his faithful obedience to what was directly before him, he was led to the Caller, and from that, to his new calling. Perhaps the answer to the question, “What has God called me to?” might surface if we tacked on “right here and now” at the end of the question, and then obeyed.