Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Following hard

What do you do when you feel like the world as you've come to expect it has ended?  What happens when every dream you ever had goes up in flames...or at least morphs in such a way that you don't quite know what to do with the new?  I realize it sounds like I'm talking about myself, and my recent 'setbacks', but I'm not quite, or not exactly, except as I'm talking about all of us, and all the ways we fail, or lose, or find life different than we thought.

Maybe, just maybe what you do is...go fishing.  That's what the disciples did.  When the world tipped over, when they up and ran off out of fear, then watched (only one of them) or heard that their Teacher-Master-Lord had been tortured, nailed to a tree and died.  The next week, miraculously, He appeared in their locked room with them, but I'm here to tell you, nothing had gone the way they'd expected when they signed up for this.  They'd left everything for this man and now...well, the whole thing was pretty confusing. He came and went, told them not to touch him, and really didn't give them the game plan any reasonable person would have been hoping for.  So Peter, impatient, brash, the vocal leader, says, "I'm going fishing.  Who's with me?"

So off they go-- Seven of them. Trying to do something they actually felt capable of doing.  After all, before they were fishers of men, they'd been fishers of fish. So being out in that boat might make them feel like successes rather than the failures they'd felt since last Friday.  Yep, fishing was just the ticket.
Except that their nets floated aimlessly, emptily in the water, bearing nothing. The one thing they--Peter, his brother, John and his--were good at, they were failing at.  Imagine that.  Imagine the desultory conversation, the annoyance creeping into their voices as they tried to tell each other how to fix what seemed broken. All stinkin' night...all for nothing.

But in the morning, a voice called across the water, telling them where to cast their nets.  And when the nets break, they realize who'd called them.  Again, called to them in their boat.

After Peter (who had to get dressed before he leapt out of the boat to swim ashore--was he fishing in his underwear?) jumped out of the boat and swam ashore, and the others brought in the haul and the boat, had another tasty meal served by the Man Himself, Jesus takes Peter for a walk.  And though it would be good to sit a few moments with the beginning of that conversation, the re-instatement of Peter, who has to answer the same question three times, "Do you love me?" I am more compelled by what happens after those questions.  Peter, more than a little flustered, has told Jesus, once for each of his denials, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."  'Leave the fish," Jesus is telling him.  "Once and for all, be a fisher of men.  I've given you every fish I'm going to give you (all 153 of them--don't you love that John is this definite?  It has the ring of truth that he knows the exact number.  Me?  I'd be rounding up, for sure!) and now it's time to feed my sheep with what I've given you."  Then He tells Peter that this life of people-fishing won't always be easy, that Peter won't always be able to do, and go and even wear what he wants by himself.  He's under command of God, and will be so, even when he's old and infirmed. 

"But what about him?" Peter asks, motioning to the young man following them, the one who recorded this scene for us.  John, the Beloved.  And this is the moment for me.  When Jesus says, "It doesn't matter what I do with him, even if I keep him alive until I return.  YOU follow me."

This is the moment we have to get to.  Past the failures of our lives, past lost dreams and empty nets.  We have to take that walk on the beach with Jesus and hear Him say to us, "Don't pay attention to what I ask of others.  Don't even look at them.  YOU follow me."  Obey His call to us, not His call to those around us.  However counterintuitive it might be, it's just that simple.  Follow Him.  And it doesn't matter what the road looks like, how far away from where you thought you were going.  It doesn't matter what is going on around us, what the world looks like...Follow and follow and follow hard.  And no matter what, keep on following.

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