Stories of Being Little
Josh grew up in a home with a mother who was often sick, so he had to act as a caretaker for his four siblings. Whenever he wanted to do something for himself, his parents would lay a guilt trip on him, asking him how he could be so insensitive when there was much to do and his mother was too sick to do it. As he thinks back to his childhood, the refrain in his head is, “My needs don’t matter.” As an adult, he continued to live out these words like a prescription, to the point where his lack of ability to care for himself cost him his job and friendships.
Ken’s father had a temper that was out of control. One year, when his Ken’s baseball team won second place in the State tournament, after the game, his father, “Wrapped the second place trophy around a telephone pole in front of all my friends,” as Ken put it. Because the team did not finish first, his dad smashed their prize. Ken vowed never to be angry like his dad. As an adult, Ken seems to be cool and calm, but he’s never figured out how to process all his emotions in a healthy way. He has addictions, instead. The message he hears in his head is, “Conflict and emotion are bad.” He struggles to be whole, rather than compartmentalized. He pretty much reacts the same way to good news or bad, making him seem robotic.
Maggie’s mom was an alcoholic, so Maggie had to take control of her family’s life. She constantly had to rescue her mom, care for her siblings, and be a support to her dad. As an adult, it’s hard for Maggie to accept when life gets out of control. She will become the hero once again and attempt to manage every aspect of life, but it’s exhausting and her whole family walks on eggshells. If they don’t do exactly what she wants, there’s hell to pay. Maggie lives by the unconscious voice in her head that says, “If I don’t have everything under control, then my family will be embarrassed and people will be hurt.”
How about one more?
Adam grew up in a Christian home. His church and family taught him a lot about “spiritual” matters, but they ignored talking about sex. By what they did not say, Adam gathered that sex was a shameful thing. Being sexual was something to hide from, as if it were “beneath” a good Christian. Even though his church taught sex was a gift from God, the way everyone tiptoed around it and failed to celebrate our physical, sexual nature, sent Adam a very different message. As an adult, he doesn’t know how to have a healthy and balanced sexual life; he tends to abstain as best he can, then when he can’t resist anymore, binges on sexual indulging.
What about you? What are the messages you learned as a child that you’re still living by today? We all have them. As a child, they were very useful; in fact, we needed them to survive. But now that we’ve grown, these statements don’t help us, but hinder us, keep us stuck. My needs don’t matter. My sexuality is something to be ashamed of. If I don’t have everything under control, then my family will be embarrassed and people will be hurt. Some others could be, “I can’t be vulnerable” or “I’ve got to be perfect” or “Kids get in the way.”
We continue to think these messages from our childhood will help solve our problems today. And when they don’t work, ironically, we keep trying them! This is called magical thinking. Somehow, magically, we think things will turn out differently this time. Instead of abandoning our magical thinking, we double-down and continue to trust it.
After Jesus ushers in the kingdom of God by proclaiming the gospel, he begins to take an ordinary walk along the Sea of Galilee (Mark 1:16). The sea often represents the soul of a person. Imagine Jesus, walking right alongside your soul. He usually doesn’t intrude, but he gets awfully close. As he walks, he woos. What does he say? Follow me!
“Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him.” (Mark 1:16-18).
Jesus sees the brothers, Simon and Andrew, and he commands them to follow him. They were fishing in a boat the moment he called them. When they heard Jesus’s invitation, they dropped their nets and came after him.
The same thing happened in the next story. “And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.” (Mark 1:19-20). Jesus found two more brothers, who were mending their nets in the boat next to their dad. But they didn’t hesitate to leave him and follow Jesus.
Perhaps the most intoxicating word in these true accounts is “immediately” (verses 18 and 20). We’ve already seen this word twice so far in Mark 1:1-15. The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus immediately when he was baptized (1:10); the Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the wilderness (1:12). The writer Mark loves to use the word “immediately,” it appears about 40 times in his account! What is the significance?
Let’s think of the word “immediately” as the ticket out of magical thinking, and the portal to something new. It’s for those who finally wake up and accept the fact that what they are doing is not working. The brothers in the boat immediately followed the call of God. Think of all they left behind! They left their jobs, family, security, and reputations in that boat. I’m sure they could hear the voice of their father calling to them as they left, commanding them with the old family cliches to get back into the boat. But they dropped their nets and followed the Voice.
How about you? What is your (safety) net? You’re not holding onto a fishing net, but you are still clinging to other things that make you feel secure. Maybe your safety net is magical thinking. But you’re only avoiding taking the call of Jesus seriously. You think the old family ways in the boat are better. You don’t trust the rabbi walking along the edge of your soul, peering down into it like a concerned physician.
We hold onto and continue to mend the old fishing nets, giving them yet another tired try, fishing nets such as self-pity, resentment, alcohol, reputation, career, anger, control. We feel safe with these. Yet nothing changes, because it’s all been magical thinking. We keep lingering, not realizing the power and potential of “immediately.”
We wish to hold onto our old world, but get new results, but that’s madness. The only way to get new results is to follow the voice of Jesus, who wants to woo you out of the old boat. Most people live life responding to the demands of the world. We act like rats in a maze, going for the next bit of cheese the world leaves for us. Our motivation is “what is the world demanding of me next?” A degree, better car, bigger house, better job, family, and so forth.
But there are some who dare to get out of the boat in order to find out what God and their soul are up to.
Fishers of Men
Do you know why Jesus told the brothers he’d make them “fishers of men”? Because Jesus knew there was another fisherman out on the lake, an evil one, who wanted to destroy people. The enemy wants to catch souls, cut them, char them, and then consume them. But Jesus calls others out into the world to catch people first, before the enemy can get them into his net.
When they woke up that morning, the disciples thought they would only ever be fisherman, just like their fathers. Religious work was exclusively for special members of society, who were a part of elite groups called Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Zealots. Simon, Andrew, James, and John would spend most of their lives on a boat, doing what was handed to them by their ancestors. But Jesus thought they would make great ‘fishers of men,’ so he called them out of their boats into the great drama of redemption, in order to fish people out of the enemy’s nets of destruction.
When we follow the voice of Jesus, rather than the voices that haunt us, we enter into a larger life. “Living Large” is about discerning the lies that have been keeping you small and following the voice of Jesus to the truest and most useful version of yourself. The voice of Jesus will tell us that our needs matter, that our sexuality is very important to him, that we can make mistakes and don’t have to have everything under control, that we can show our emotions as whole human beings, and that we can serve him wherever we are in life. If you start to listen to the voice of Jesus, your life will start to get larger, immediately.
It may seem scary, but nothing meaningful is safe.
- What are some voices of the past that are still speaking to you today? Are they holding you back? What are they saying?
- If Jesus were to speak directly to your soul, what would he tell it?
- What do people expect of you? What safety nets do you cling to today?
- How can you “live large” today? (Remember, you only need to take small steps in being honest with yourself and following Jesus).