Well, dang it, I'm sick, which is really annoying, considering everything I have to get done this week. Also annoying is the fact that the doctor was right last spring when he told me that once I had a bronchial infection I'd be more susceptible to them, especially in the first year. Triply annoying is that the nurse I just talked to told me that this bug has been going around, is viral, so there's nothing to be done for it but to wait it out. But call back if it lasts longer than a week because the doctor will want to see me. So I'm having this close encounter with a cement block on my chest, accompanying cough, headache and aches, and thank you very much, have a nice day. As my mother-in-law always said, "That's why they call it practicing medicine."
The thing is, I'm very used to having things wrong with me. As my devoted readers know, I'm no stranger to a weak body. But my issues are generally of the idiopathic sort. That's the medical term for "we haven't the faintest idea what the heck is wrong with you, though clearly something is." Unknown origin is another favorite phrase in relation to my ailments. Run-of-the-mill things like bronchitis and influenza have leap-frogged over my life to land on other folks with regularity, and I've been grateful for the favor. So this strikes me as...a bit much. No, I didn't say that. OK, I did. But I'm sick, after all. Give me a break. At least today, my fever doesn't seem as high. Yesterday I stared into space about half the day, trying to sleep in a recliner so I wouldn't cough.
It's not a good week to be sick. Thursday night we pick up the first of a rather significant contingent of my family coming for the long weekend. By Sunday, there will be 15 of us for dinner. Fortunately it's my family, who will understand if I retreat to my bedroom. They already know Beve's the host in this household. I have other gifts. Hospitality is definitely his. It isn't that I don't love having family or friends visit, I definitely do. It's just that Beve anticipated needs, is always on the look-out for how he can feed, serve, welcome others when they're with us. I'm too busy communicating with them to notice physical needs unless they're pointed out to me. I want to burrow deep into the recesses of a person's being, to discover what makes him or her who they are, and can do that to the exclusion of feeding them. Sad to say. Beve understands that unless a person has food and drink they aren't comfortable enough to share.
I've been lately thinking about my strengths and weaknesses in great relief. Sunday we were at our friends' church for a day-long 'retreat' with a former university president. It was a wonderful day, rich and challenging. At the morning service, he used Luke 5: 1-11 as his text, which is the story of Jesus in the boat with the disciples, who have been fishing for hours, catching nothing. He tells them to cast their nets on the other side, and they bring in a haul so large it tears their nets. At this moment, Peter kneels and tells Jesus he knows he's a sinner. And Jesus tells them all they'll become fishers of men. There were five key things about leadership and following in this passage, according to our speaker, but I keep thinking of two/three in specific.
One is that Jesus used their very gifts to draw them into ministry. He used the concepts they understood in the language they knew, and called them to vocations based on their own gifts and abilities. Fishermen to fishers of men. This is exactly how He starts, and uses us--with our own gifts and talents. Oddly (or not, if you believe in the Holy Spirit), this is pretty much what I was writing about Saturday before we heard the message Sunday morning. Look back and see. I love that He does this, that He confirms what we're thinking about.
But with our giftedness, which comes, I believe because we're made in the Image of God, we must keep in tension that we are sinners. The moment at which Jesus calls them to leave everything isn't a high point, but a kneeling point. A moment at which Peter knows what he is is relations to Christ. He is a sinner. Paul says, "Christ came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst." When I was a young Christian I was shocked by this statement. I couldn't imagine that Paul--the saint--would think of himself as the worst sinner. But the longer I live with the Light of the World, the more I understand this feeling. In comparison to Him, in relation to who He is, I am wholly dependent, and wholly needy. A sinner saved by Grace. This is always, always the crossroads we live at: that we are gifted treasures used by Him in Kingdom work, and we are sinners kneeling at the foot of the cross.
And then there's this final thought from Sunday: when they left their boats to follow Jesus, those nets were still full. He gave them a catch so large it ripped their nets--and they left it! I don't think I'd ever seen in such sharp relief before that even what we are given by Him must come second--or after--His call to follow. Even the most miraculous gifts of our life are to be considered nothing in comparison to being His disciples. There's no indication that they gave those fish a second thought when He called them to follow. That, I think, is what made them true disciples. They left their nets...their nets full of fish.
Dare I do the same?