It’s summertime in Alaska, and many of us are making time to fish. Whether you grab a pole and seek for solitude, rub elbows on the popular runs, or hope to dipnet your way to a full freezer, the lure of fishing beckons.
My family tries to make it to Kenai to dipnet, but sometimes our schedule does not align with the tides and the salmon run. We have experienced empty-net stretches when our time driving and shivering in the ocean have not paid off. Other times, when the commercial boats weren’t out, and the fish were running, we thrilled in the hit after hit excitement of filling our coolers during one tide. It’s been a couple of years since we’ve had a good haul, and we are hoping to get to Kenai this week.
Peter, Andrew, James, and John were all fishermen at the time Jesus first called them to be disciples and “fishers of men” (Matt 4:18-22, all references KJV). Christ saw their potential and invited them, saying, “follow me.” Their decision—to “immediately [leave] the ship and their father” and follow Jesus—blessed them beyond measure. They taught with Jesus Christ during his ministry. They received power to act in his name. These disciples heard the parables first-hand and received Christ’s private explanations afterward of symbolism, prophesy, and scripture.
Skip ahead in the Biblical account to John 21. Christ had just been crucified and resurrected. Perhaps these disciples felt that life was returning to normal. Whether they were taking a longer break or an overnight respite, Peter, James, and John had returned to the sea and their trade. They joined a few other disciples on the Sea of Tiberias. I imagine their disappointment at a fruitless night and the subsequent thrill of hauling a loaded net to the beach.
After sharing a breakfast of fish on the shore with their resurrected Lord, Christ chides Peter for fishing. I imagine Jesus gesturing over the remnants of their meal and the fish-filled nets on the beach as he gently asks, “Lovest thou me more than these?” Three times inquiring of Peter’s love and telling him to “feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).
What would Jesus be referring to in your life if he asked you, “Lovest thou me more than these?” Would your haul also be full of glistening fish? (At this time of year, I think I can answer yes. Salmon!) But this question points to our priorities. Can we learn to love God and his children more than we love—fill in the blank: fish, boats, travel, cars, work, hobbies, etc.? Can we give more time to prayer, worship, and community service? Could we learn to let go of the near-constant pull toward more and bigger and better material goods?
Ultimately, we pursue these things because we hope they will make us happy. If we are dissatisfied with our lives or our relationships, it’s easy to believe that achieving success at work or being able to have a bigger house could somehow fill the void. On a basic level, we need food, shelter, and clothing. We need to provide for ourselves and our families. But once we meet our basic needs, we find true joy in turning outward and serving others with love.
Jesus taught his disciples that he would take care of their physical needs if they would attend to his spiritual work. That work is to teach of Christ: repentance, hope, and salvation. He said, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? …For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt 6:31-33).
The disciples no longer needed to fish for their livelihood. Their higher calling was to find those among all nations who would recognize Christ’s message and follow him. God would provide everything else they needed. And if we are engaged in his work, God will provide for us as well.
From that first day on the beach to their last meal on the shores of Tiberias, Jesus saw his disciples’ potential and called them to become better. Likewise, Christ sees and knows each of us. We too have the potential to follow his path, serve his children, and do his work. The power to do his work is born of faith and nurtured by effort. Each day we must decide how to spend our time and energy. Even without conscious effort, the day will fill, and the time will slip by anyway.
As I watch the tide slip past me and feel the tug of the sea at my net, I will consider with gratitude the opportunities before me. I fish: to feed my family, to escape work, and to enjoy nature. I am also a disciple of Jesus Christ. I seek to fill a higher calling, and I know God will bless me with all that I need.
Amity Condie has lived in Palmer for 15 years. She and her family enjoy biking along the Matanuska River, camping, and skijoring with their dogs. She is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.