Connections 01.17.2021: Leaving It All Behind

John 1:35-51

Have you ever left it all behind? I’ve come close a few times. The last few weeks of summer after senior year had me itching to go away. I was eighteen years old, a high school graduate, and accepted to my preferred university. I felt ready to be responsible for myself. I didn’t want to worry about being home at a certain time, doing my chores, or listening to my parents’ advice about life. I wanted to leave it all behind.

Another time happened about twelve years into marriage. My husband and I had lost our fondness for each other. Instead, contempt and bitterness filled our spirits. He was lost in his job and his coworkers; I was buried under housework, our children, and my own job. We let the problems lie for a few miserable years until we reached the point where we thought we needed to end our relationship. We wanted to leave it all behind.

But you can’t really leave it all behind, you know. In the first instance, my parents’ love and advice and boundaries followed me throughout my college years and have become a part of my adult life—for the better. In the second instance, it took separation for my husband and I to realize that we still wanted to make our marriage work. This year, we will happily celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary! I didn’t leave it all behind in either case. Everything that came before followed me into the next stage of life.

In our Scripture passage, Jesus is at the start of his ministry, and he is choosing his closest companions—his disciples. Their willingness to go with this man, who is still a stranger to them, is remarkable. It seems that they are content, even eager, to leave their lives behind and take up the cause of this passionate preacher and teacher. But as we will see in the rest of the story, they don’t really leave it all behind. Their fears, uncertainties, doubts, and longings follow them into the next stage of life. Sometimes this is for the worse because it makes them hesitate or question or be afraid when they should be confident, sure, and courageous. But sometimes this is for the better. It protects the disciples from arrogance and helps them understand the humanity of the people who come for their teaching and healing.

We can’t ever truly leave it all behind. And that can be a good thing. As we follow our Lord and Savior through the stages of life, may we always carry what has come before and let it help us in our ministry and service to other people.


  • When have you wanted to leave it all behind?
  • Why is this hard or impossible to do?
  • What are the benefits of using what we have experienced in the past as we enter new stages of life?
  • Can you think of times when the disciples’ past affected their approach to the people Jesus wanted them to help?
  • How can a specific experience of your past help you minister to and serve other people today?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.


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