” Do You Love Me?”
“Sell my home, Lord? But why?” I pleaded.
It had been several months since I’d gotten my first book contract.. I spent a lot of days feeling caught in the middle: halfway between my old life of overworked chaos and my new passion to follow God’s call on my life.
As we pulled into my driveway I pulled myself together and walked into the house to find my husband sitting in the living room just staring into space. He looked stunned.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Well,” he began softly. “I don’t know how to tell you this, but today at lunch I think God told me to sell our house.” Tears flowed.
Debt was a huge sin in our lives, and it strangled God’s purpose and potential right out of us. Yet, we clung to our stuff like babies crying territorially over their beloved toys. We had no freedom to follow God’s call. We were slaves to the debt and the house, the Jet Skis, the nice cars . . . they were all part of our bondage.
Yet we loved them.
I walked onto the back deck and looked over a backyard of memories. Robby’s sky fort complete with the addition he and my dad had built for baby Lexi. The pool with the wrap-around deck. The wonderful row of trees that Robby had climbed countless times . . . and had fallen from nearly as many. The flower bed that had won “yard of the month” and which had been Lexi’s muddy sand box. The water hoses and buckets and guns, which had ignited, frequent family water fights.
“Oh, Lord,” I said. “If You really want us to sell this, please tell me You’ll take care of my kids. This is going to break their hearts.”
I slept hard that night and awoke expectantly. Surely God was going to tell me it was just a test. We didn’t really have to let go of this precious first home of ours.
I opened my Bible to read my daily chapter in Proverbs. And there was God’s answer. In perfect finality in Proverbs 14:26, “He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge.”
“Dannah,” God seemed to be whispering. “Do you look to Me as your fortress or to this house? I will take care of those little ones. I will be their refuge. Obey Me.”
I knew this wasn’t going to be easy.
The apostle Peter’s situation wasn’t looking good.
It hadn’t been very long since Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead . . . and not so long since Peter had denied Christ. Defeated and discouraged, believing he no longer has a place of importance in Christ’s plan, Peter returns to the thing he is most familiar with . . . his fishing business.
He’s not catching so many fish, though.
Jesus hunts Peter down. He’s not going to let this guy miss his purpose. After a fine divine catch of fish, Jesus eats with His friends and then turns to Simon Peter and asks, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” (John 21:15). Here is where we have to look deeply to hear Christ’s truth. What does He mean when He uses the word these? Bible scholars are divided. Some say he’s asking, “Peter, do you love Me more than you love these other disciples?” A minority group says He was asking, “Peter, do you love Me more than this fishing business?”
The fish thing resonates with me. It’s easy for me to understand wanting to cling to the familiar rather than to walk out in freedom to claim God’s purpose for my life. I’ve been there so many times.
A fish is anything that you cling to when God is calling you to move on. It’s something that restrains your choices and actions to pursue God. It’s something that causes you to feel unduly hampered or frustrated in your pursuit of God. Are you clinging to a fish? Is it a current job? a stubborn plan to launch something that God either isn’t allowing to be launched at all or it’s just not time yet? a relationship? Is it a fear or hurt you can’t get past?
Three times Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love Me more than these?” Each time Peter says, “Sure, I love You.” And Jesus says, “Feed My sheep!” He’s calling. He wants the discouraged disciple to leave the fish behind, to leave the familiar . . . the secure . . . and to step out in freedom to follow Him.
Sometimes God allows us to be discouraged because He is calling us to redirect ourselves. The purpose of this discouragement is simple. God wants you to get miserable enough to recognize your fish. A fish is a snare that will strangle the life out of you, but you don’t even know it. Snares are like that. Subtle. Not easily detected. If you are clinging to a fish, God is calling you to redirect your life.
So it was for Peter.
So it was for me. I thoroughly believe that the only way God could have helped me to recognize my fish was to allow me to become so discouraged and exhausted that it turned into physical depression. It was the kindness of God in this place of deep discouragement that led me to hope for a new calling.
Ephesians 5:17 (NCV) says, “Do not be foolish but learn what the Lord wants you to do.” What a sad, foolish thing it would have been for Peter to continue to be a fisherman when God wanted to make him “the rock.” Are you a bit discouraged? A lot discouraged? Stop. Ask yourself this question, “Is there anything that I’m holding on to?” Is there a snare in your life?
For me and for my husband, this point of identifying a battle plan for freedom to pursue God’s call meant addressing the problem of debt. We were not free to pursue God’s purpose while we were ensnared by growing financial burdens and the accompanying stress. In addition to a lot of other things like Jet Skis and expensive cars, God prodded us to let go of our first little home.
The mere thought of it broke my heart. But missing out on God’s adventure for my life seemed far more painful. We began to pursue the sale of our home, which happened quickly though the market was sluggish. We moved into a little rental house which would be our home for three years. We started to just say “no” to all the big and little fish in our lives. It took a while, but eventually we started to live in an adventuresome life. A life full of rescuing teenagers in places like Zambia, Africa or by taking fifty from our home town to a born again Amish community for a weekend to decompress from technology. It’s a life that’s full and free and fantastic.
To find it, I needed to let my life answer the question, “Do I love Him more than these?” What about you.
Do you love him?
Excerpted with permission from Five Little Questions That Reveal the Life God Designed For You from Thomas Nelson (May 2007). Copyright © 2007 Dannah Gresh