In the Margins {Just As We Are}

pearl in clam

Of all the invitations we might send or receive, there’s one that can’t be beat.  Four little words strung together like beautiful pearls  — “Come as you are”.  And just like pearls formed around something as seemingly unremarkable as a grain of sand, He always invites us to come as we are, but never leaves us the way we are.  At the heart of it all is the miracle of transformation and restoration.  Yes, this is for you and me; with our questions and doubts, rough edges and brokenness, but made in His image, created for so much more.   Full of grace, these simple words let us know there’s a special place with our name at the table.  We are welcome here.

Doing everyday life with Jesus, the disciples watched as time and again He said “come and follow”.  It’s how they would slowly understand what it meant to love, to serve, and to live in relationship with Him and with each other. On one occasion we’re told that after a long day of teaching, Jesus sent the crowds away and said to His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” (Mark 4:35)  As much a request as an invitation, their teacher and example was weary and wanted some quiet away from the pressing masses.  Check out what it says next:  “They took Him along, just as He was, in the boat…”

Perhaps at times the closest thing

they had to what seemed like home,

the boat was a constant in their lives

where they could be found together,

doing the ordinary while learning

extraordinary lessons in faith and trust.

When in the boat, “come as you are” was the unspoken rule, and Jesus was was met with an empathetic response because these fishermen were no strangers themselves to physical exhaustion.  Being seasoned sailors, they were well equipped to provide for what He asked.  Without delay they took Jesus along and set sail, giving Him the gift of familiar company, open air, and space apart from the multitudes that sought Him outsmall boat4 wherever He went.   But what began as a simple invitation would become a life-changing lesson in faith for these capable sailors.  The boat would become their classroom.  And their passenger asleep on a cushion?  He’s the One who would still the suddenly raging storm with just a word.  Ever their teacher, always the Master.  Messiah.

From the boat to a beach, the call to authentic relationship is recounted in another divine appointment.  After the disciples had spent an entire night fishing with no success, He spoke to them from the shore and asked “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” (John 21:5)  Even though He already knew the answer, in wisdom and from a Father’s heart, they were given the opportunity to acknowledge what they lacked.  “They answered Him, ‘No'”.  When they obeyed His instruction to throw their nets over the right side of the boat, the result was a haul of fish so great they couldn’t even bring it all in.  One-hundred and fifty three to be exact.  At dawn,  Jesus invited them to join Him.  They must have been exhausted, smelled like their catch, and were even soaking wet since Peter had jumped into the water with all his clothes on.  fishing net2But then this: “Come and have breakfast”.  Stepping onto the stone scattered beach, each with their own scattered thoughts and emotions about what had just happened, they were greeted with love.  Around the warmth of a charcoal fire He had built, and a meal He prepared for them, they found comfort in the invitation their Savior extended.  He anticipated their needs and made complete provision for each one.  Full nets, full stomachs, and full hearts.  No expectation to get cleaned up and look respectable, no need to save face after failing so miserably on their own.  Straight from the crucible and into a circle of friendship and cheer.  Imagine their encouragement and delight when He asked them to “bring some of the fish which you have now caught” (21:10) to add to their meal.  They ate and rested, He served.  These fishermen took notice; not only of the miracle that nearly broke their nets with its abundance, but of His sacrificial love that, over time, continued to break open their hearts and illumine their eyes to understand who He was.  It had already taken Him to the cross.   Now, from that small circle, their paths would soon carry them near and far as changed men, witnesses to the power of His invitation.

Do we recognize ourselves as the ones in the boat or on that beach?  Like the disciples, we are forever changed when His invitation falls on searching minds and hungry hearts ready to be filled.  Once again, the takeaway is this — He always invites us to come as we are, but never leaves us the way we are.  Our greatest need is met with provision and purpose.  Relationship and rest. Restoration and replenishment.  Forgiveness and flourishing!  It’s a daily journey that dawns as we recognize our want and simply come.

Come, ye weary, heavy-laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.

Let not conscience make you linger,
Not of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him.

(Joseph Hart, 1759)

To think that in love He has pursued us like a merchant seeking one pearl of great value.  (Matthew 13:45,56)  His invitation stands and is for all the pearls in the rough like me and you.

Amazed by grace! ~ Love, D.