Thursday, November 29, 2012

Leaving my nets

Christmas season always brings a mixed bag of emotions for me. But  feeling overwhelmed by the added responsibilities tends to eclipse the joy I really desire. So this week, I've been fighting. Analyzing what is stopping me from finding joy. Moving the pieces of the Christmas season puzzle around in my brain in case I can fit them together differently this year.

In the past, I've thought it was simply a calendar issue: if we can just say "no" to enough extras, we'll have time for joy. Though that's true to an extent, I suspected there was more going on.

Perhaps these symptoms of feeling overwhelmed, busy, demotivated, and burdened - let's call them the December Blues - are because I'm following the wrong thing. I'm asking myself who or what I'm following. Am I feeling guided by traditions (because "that's what we've always done"), my own new ideas, the culture's priorities, the sales, Pinterest, other bloggers? Or am I following Jesus and what He is guiding me toward right now, this December?

What does it even mean to follow hard after Him this season?

Today I thought a lot about the day when Jesus called a few fishermen, in the middle of their work, and said, "Follow me."

Mark records their response this way: "And immediately, they left their nets and followed Him." (Mark 1:18)

Some of the fishermen had been mending their nets, two brothers, James and John who worked for the family business. They too got up and "left their father in the boat." (Mark 1:20)

Let's not look at this scenario in a vacuum. We know a little about the way God works. He doesn't drop out of the sky into our lives and say "Follow me." He prepares the soil. He makes us uncomfortable, gives us vision and desire for more in our lives, He draws us deep down, usually way before He actually shows up. Put that knowledge into this scene with the first few disciples. Oblige me a little reading between the lines.

It's possible they wanted out. They were burnt. Each time they cast that net, something told them they were meant for more. The joy was gone. Their craving for change was at an all time high. Something had to give way. And along came Jesus on the beach. Their hearts nearly burst when he waved them over.  

"And immediately, they left their nets and followed Him."

Aggh! Can you imagine how purpose and fulfillment came flooding into their lives again? Being in the center of His will, walking with Him, was exactly where they were meant to be. They could have said, "But the nets need mending....can I follow you later? I'm in the middle of something really important." They could have followed their ideas of what was important, or thought their timing was superior. They could have sought the favor of the men around them instead of the favor of God. But they dropped it all. It was a big risk.

Walking away wasn't without a great cost. Do you think their father was cheering them on from the boat, or shouting that they were crazy? Or irresponsible? Or worse? Do you think they wrestled with doubt after receiving scorn from the community? They certainly lost their jobs. Following Jesus is never without some cost.

This account in Mark reminds me that being a disciple is inconvenient. It can confuse and hurt the people closest to you. And it requires total devotion. To live in joy and deep fulfillment, sometimes we have to walk away from something. We have to leave our nets and follow Him.

So back to Christmas. I haven't asked Jesus, yet, where all my "nets" are that I need to walk away from to follow Him this season. But one, certainly, is the way we have handled gift giving in the past. This year, my husband and I are walking away from some of our past traditions in that regard. We got uncomfortable. We lost joy. We had a vision for more. So we left some nets. And it's not completely smooth in our extended family. We seem a little crazy.

What I want is to follow Jesus into each day this December. Still asking for His agenda for my days. Choosing joy and a positive attitude instead of a tired one. Is it just me, or is it strange to feel like truly following Him EVEN AT CHRISTMASTIME is a fight?  So many things distract us from what really matters. Even good "spiritual" things. If I am yelling at my kids because we're late for volunteering at a church function, or rushing them through the day so we can have time for advent later, how much will that good thing really mean? It is a fine line between intentionality and just doing things because they are good ideas. And good ideas aren't necessarily God's ideas for me, for this moment, this year. I don't even really know what they are unless I ask Him.

As inconvenient or costly as it may be, I want to leave my nets when and where He calls me. That may mean I walk away from good ideas. Lower my expectations. Ruffle some feathers.

But I'll be with Jesus. Immanuel. God, who came down to be with us. The center of it all.

Being with Him is really all I want.


linking up with Amanda today here.


  1. Wow. I am amazed at how constantly your posts speak directly to my heart and my mind. And especially my faith. I've been feeling a 'pull' recently to pull out of a few commitments that I said yes to earlier this year, while I wasn't 100% sure about committing to them. I have started to feel strong and confident about my decisions to walk away-and I feel its because I'm being led somewhere. My thought is because it is that I need to simplify. And after reading what you've wrote here I just know that it's the Holy Spirit and God leading me there. To simplify, so that I can focus more on my faith. I'm moving back to the US next year (after having been overseas for 3 years) and I feel like I need to be 'ready' to re-enter life there. And it's becoming so clear that a big, huge part of that is to have my faith life ready and strong so that I can learn the appropriate balance once I'm surrounded by my family, friends and other 'takers of time & attention'.

    Sorry for the long winded comment; but you struck a chord with me. :) Thank you.

  2. I love this. I've struggled lately with wanting to simplify more too and just wondering what exactly we are all chasing so hard after. Things that are so temporal. Just loved this.

  3. i think it may be even harder to have a joyful, positive attitude during Christmastime because Satan is out to seek and destroy all context regarding the TRUE meaning of the season, even for Christians. we get caught up in making the most pinteresting decor, santa, the yummiest goodies, and our focus is shifted. that what he wants. i am so guilty of this.

    i agree with you 100% about ruffling feathers and following Him. you put a whole new light on this passage that i love so much. the kids and i just read it a few weeks ago. i think you may be on to something there with how they were feeling. i never though of it that way before. i just knew that i wanted to be like them and immediately follow.

    we have simplified gifts this year, and focused more on serving others and spreading the Gospel. GO-ing.

    love this.

  4. thank you for sharing truth, friend. there has been an uncomfortable heart stirring in me as well and i am currently reevaluating what our advent season will entail. it is so good to read your words for continued conviction! xoxo

  5. Thank you so much for letting this all out. We so desperately want to keep Christmas simple and about the CHRIST born son. Not even really sure where to start, but simplifying keeps on repeating in my head. So we aren't really exchanging gifts and we aren't going to celebrate just because with extended family and friends. Being intentional is huge during this time of year and I don't want to miss out on the importance.
    Could you describe a little more what advent means? And how you guys do it?

  6. God spoke to me about this story a while back too!!! I love that! I too was thinking about the cost it really meant for them to leave their nets. In Luke's telling of this talks about Jesus telling them to put their nets out and they were filled to overflowing with fish. When they dropped those nets to follow him, they were leaving behind a ton of $, provision, security, etc. It was a huge deal!! I love that...we drop the things that seem to make sense of make life comfortable to follow Jesus into the greatest adventure of our lives. Great post! So glad to read this today, it was just what I needed! Thanks so much!

  7. I feel like I need a "do over" and it's not even December 1st yet... I need to think about these thoughts for a bit... thanks...

  8. I think you've stated what a lot of us are going through, I am feeling the same way too. I blame it on schedule issues, or pms or something, but it's really that I'm not doing what God is asking me to do. I long to spend this season his way, and I know that will look different this year.

  9. Beautifully written. So challenging and so inspiring. You are right! We don't get burnt out as a sign of a closed door, but a possible as a new opportunity, a better opportunity if we will follow God. Following along from the Desire to Inspire link up.


  10. I needed to hear that this week as a struggle with making an unpopular decision that is necessary for my spiritual growth and consequently my family's health. At Christmastime there is so much pressure to 'follow the rules', but they don't always work for every family every year. I just keep telling myself Leslie is doing it too. Thanks for your words.

  11. Do you seriously write just exactly what I need, when I need it? Yes you do. No, GOD does. You're such an inspiration Leslie, I've been overwhelmed this season and the other night I was telling Mr. E. that I feel like I've completely lost sight of the fact that we're supposed to be celebrating the incarnation of a holy, completely set apart all-powerful God. I can't help but think that twinkle lights and elves and shiny wrapping does nothing to remind us of HIS holy condescension into injured, human flesh. Oh to be focused on HIM.