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Monday, August 15, 2016

Empty nets

"Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success." (C.S. Lewis)  There seems to be weeks upon weeks in which the most we can look back on for the week is just to have made it through - when it doesn't seem on the outside like we have really accomplished very much.  We cannot forget we made it through! In that short little acknowledgement we can take heart, for the week and all the troubles which mounted against us just didn't stop us in our tracks - we ended up making it through. As Lewis points out, even the failures of the week are finger posts on the road to achievement - each failure not pointing toward an end, but a place to begin again. We might just treat failures in a different manner if we saw them as markers of where we have been on the way to where it is we are headed!  Peter was approached by Jesus after his return from an "all-night fishing trip" which yielded nothing.  Jesus asks them them to put out again onto the waters.  Most fishermen will agree, when the cool night waters have yielded nothing for a long night's efforts, it is kind of futile to try again in the sun's heat.  Their "haul" was astronomical and their obedience was rewarded.  They could have settled for their failure - but they didn't see their set-backs as stopping points.  They were launching pads from which they would start again!

Simon’s fishing partners, James and John (two of Zebedee’s sons), along with the rest of the fishermen, see this incredible haul of fish. They’re all stunned, especially Simon. He comes close to Jesus and kneels in front of His knees.  Simon: I can’t take this, Lord. I’m a sinful man. You shouldn’t be around the likes of me.  Jesus: Don’t be afraid, Simon. From now on, I’ll ask you to bring Me people instead of fish.  The fishermen haul their fish-heavy boats to land, and they leave everything to follow Jesus.  (Luke 5:8-11 VOICE)


We can fail over a great deal many points in life, but none seem to affect us so deeply as those things we know we (or others we care deeply about) were counting on in some manner.  Some failure is good for us - it challenges us to rethink things and begin again. Repeated failure without any break in the process, or glimmer of light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, is without a doubt one of the hardest things to endure.  When we fail in relationship, we often feel the devastating effects of that failure for a good deal longer than we may have wanted.  Why?  There was something we valued there and we know we disappointed.  I imagine the fishermen set out onto the sea that night with no intention of returning empty-handed.  Their night's work was their way of providing for those within their families.  If the boat was empty upon the return to shore, the family did not have their next meal, or their coffers were not going to be refilled with the coins they'd need to buy what they needed.  A "fruitless" night meant a pretty big disappointment to those they cared deeply about.

I like what Jesus does when he approaches these fishermen.  He asks them to set out again. Their response is kind of like ours many times, "Hey, listen here, Jesus...we've been at this all night and there wasn't even a minnow that snagged our nets!"  We often proclaim we didn't get the minnow, all the while missing the point that Jesus is asking us to set out again so we might encounter the biggest "haul" of our lives!  We focus on the lack of minnows - he focuses on the availability of our nets.  It wasn't the minnows we really wanted, but we'd settle for them if that was all we could seem to get!  Jesus wants to get our eyes off the emptiness of our nets and onto the fullness of the sea!  Maybe Jesus isn't so much teaching them to fish as much as he is teaching them to not count on what they have always counted on!  We often give Jesus grief about being asked to do something a little differently than we have always done it.  Why?  It isn't comfortable - it is out of our "normal" way of doing things.  Yet, the greatest "haul" can be when our nets are the emptiest and our hearts are the most desperate!

Lewis also said, "There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, 'All right, then, have it your way.'"  I don't know about you, but I've done my share of providing all the excuses why it won't work to just "do it again". Rather than be the kind of person who says, "Thy will be done", I kind of resisted a little and complained there weren't even minnows to be caught!  It is a sad thing for Jesus to encounter that kind of resistance on our part, but it is often what he gets when he asks us to "cast the nets again" in life, isn't it?  "Having it my own way" isn't always the best way to have it!  In fact, the nets just come back empty or all we get after repeated attempts are the minnows!  Minnows won't feed us for long, though!  They might make it look like we have had some success, but those minnows had the potential of growing into another big haul later down the road!  Just sayin!