LUKE 5:8-11 NIV | "When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, 'Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!' For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
"Then Jesus said to Simon, 'Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.' So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him."
Herbert was sitting on the ground at the Powell Street cable car turnaround in downtown San Francisco — a glittering sidewalk of city lights and flashy storefronts. Throngs of tourists breezed past him, shopping bags in hand, gazes unwavering despite the brokenness around them.
My friend Emily and I stopped and asked if we could sit with him. Herbert shared with us a bit of his story. He was newly homeless after a falling out with his brother, the only family he had left. We bought him some food and continued to listen. Emily asked Herbert if we could pray for him. I felt my stomach drop.
God, there is no way I am worthy enough to come to you on behalf of this man.
I was 21 years old, a college student living a double life in which I served as a leader in our campus Christian fellowship and then partied through the weekends. In all of my wretchedness, I tried to push God away. I knew this moment with Emily and Herbert was a sacred one, and I wanted to hide.
About six years later, I found myself in Kenya in search of next steps.
I visited the home of a recovered alcoholic, Mary. She went through rehab and found herself again, in the arms of Jesus. We sat together in the dim light of that mud house. She recounted how her first thought when she would wake up each morning used to be about a drink instead of her children. She told me how she got sober and wanted to share God’s love with her neighbors. In that holy space, she thanked me for coming and asked me to close our time in prayer.
But God, who am I to pray with this woman? My scars do not compare to hers.
She was a sinner turned saint. I was an ordinary twenty-something who had only known a comfortable California life. This was an entirely different world where I had no tools or experience to rely on. No formal training, no seminary degree. I was the fisherman, not the rabbi.
Simon Peter tells Jesus to go away from him because he is a sinful man. Here is the brutal truth: I have been Simon Peter in this moment, over and over. I am a sinful person with dark parts in my heart. I am no biblical scholar, and sometimes I can barely call myself a missionary.
Yet Jesus still invites me, like he did in San Francisco with Herbert and in Kenya with Mary. He invites me into his beautiful work, regardless of my weaknesses and imperfections.
When Emily and I prayed together for Herbert, it was an act of acknowledgement of his humanity and dignity. When I prayed with Mary, it was an act of sealing her restoration and healing.
I cast my nets into the deep water and was astonished by the catch. My messy and clumsy and fumbling efforts, turned into something extraordinary through the redemptive power of Jesus.
QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION
- What are some of the things you use to disqualify yourself from saying “Yes” to Jesus’ invitation to leave everything and follow him? Bring these before him in prayer.
- How does Jesus respond to, or even dispel, your “disqualifications”?
- Jesus tells Simon Peter that he will fish for people. What does this currently look like in your own life? Could you be casting your nets deeper or wider?
This reading is a part of our "Small Feet Big Shoes" devotional series. You can also sign up to receive these meditations by email.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cat Caya has been with CRM since 2008. She and her husband, Jim, currently live and work in Kenya, partnering with and consulting for an NGO that works in East Africa. Their focus is on communications, business, and leadership development.