A friend of mine who was newly retired was talking to me about regretting that his whole career had been one in which he didn’t make an impact. He said he worked for a company all those years, made decent money, but it hadn’t really made an impact.
He was emphatic about the idea of impact. He wants to change that in retirement. I admire his interests and concerns, and I love the things he’s been doing in retirement, but I pushed back just a little about his regrets.
He was well admired in his career for his work ethic and his integrity. Younger people in the company came to him for personal and professional advice. That matters. That’s impactful.
That reminds me of Jesus telling four fishermen he would make them “fishers for men.” Archaic language and also language that might be a bit burdened with old visions of evangelism that are less than appealing, but it is interesting to me that Jesus didn’t say this to his tax collector friend Matthew.
That’s because the whole thing of being a fisher for men probably resonated with the guys who worked on boats more than with the guy who sat at the collection station. Jesus was saying something like, “so while you are being a fisherman, I can show how your life can make another kind of impact.” He probably said the same thing to Matthew only maybe something like, “so in your life as a tax collector, I can show you how your life can collect more than taxes.”
The invitation to make an impact is for all of us. Following Jesus invites us to be some of the other things that appear in the stories and teachings, no matter what else we do in life.
We can be calm in the storm for others, we can be peacemakers, forgivers, light in the darkness, and people who don’t give up looking for someone to come home. The stories of Jesus are so many things, so rich in application, and so full of creative possibilities — including showing us how to make an impact, and giving us eyes to see the impact others are making as well.
Following Jesus is about how we impact others, but it is also about noticing how God is at work in the people around us. This idea can save us from the mistaken thought that we are always in the teaching, leading, fishing, collecting position.
Sometimes we just need to pay attention and be taught, led, caught, and collected. That, too, makes an impact.
Life in the kingdom of God – such an adventure!