“Come, follow me,” he said, “and I will show you how to fish for people.”
Mark 1:17 (Common English Bible)
Norman Vincent Peale said, “To find life full of meaning, live a bigger and better life.” Joseph R. Sizoo spoke of a man who said to him, “I am not interested in the endurance of life but in an enduring life.” Jim Rohn wrote, “Consider others’ interest as important as your own. Much of the world suffers simply because people consider only their own interest.” I like best the way Michael Brown expresses the route to a life full of meaning, “Find something bigger than you to live for. Be like Abraham who was so busy tending the needs of his children, Israel, that he just didn’t have time to fret much about his own needs.” Multiple voices that all, essentially, share the same wisdom. A life focused only on your own wants and desires is the shortest route to an empty life.
These few words in Mark’s Gospel offer tremendous guidance to a full and satisfying life. First is an invitation to “follow.” To the one who is experiencing emptiness in their life, tossed from here to there by unseen forces, without direction or purpose, Jesus asks that their eye be focused on him. As sailors once navigated the seas by the North Star, Jesus asks that we navigate the complexities and uncertainties of life by an eye that pays attention to Jesus. Time reading the Bible, learning the teachings of Jesus, is never wasted time. Nor is this an exercise for the margins of time that may remain after a day of work. Learning of Jesus continually resets those values and priorities that propel us forward. We discern with greater clarity the important stuff of life.
Second is the invitation to “learn.” In Judaism, rabbis often shared their wisdom with their followers. Formation of others was accomplished by teaching, modeling life built upon the teaching, and asking followers to do the same under the supervision of the instructor. This method of learning is more effective than instruction alone. During a vacation in Mexico my wife and I enrolled in a cooking class. The chef introduced the ingredients required for a particular Mexican dish, the kitchen instruments that would be required in the preparation, and then prepared the dish under our watch. Then the chef turned to us and asked that we now repeat what we saw. What was most satisfying is that Grace and I then enjoyed a lunch that we had prepared. Jesus says right here in Mark’s Gospel, “I will show you how.”
It is then that these words reveal their “strangest secret” – a phrase I have borrowed from Earl Nightingale. The cooking class Grace and I took in Mexico was, without apology, for us. After all, we were on vacation. Yet, here Jesus identifies that our instruction, our formation, is for one purpose: the welfare of other people: “I will show you how to fish for people.” I call this the “strangest secret” because what remains unnoticed by many is that discipleship isn’t really about us. It is about others. Jesus is asking us to join him on the great adventure of populating God’s Kingdom with people who have lost their way in life. The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah writes about God calling people to “catch” others in God’s net that they also may know God. A life lived for others is the secret of a life full of meaning.