Skip to main content

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!


Popular posts from this blog

What did obedience cost Mary and Joseph?

As we have looked at the birth of Christ, we have considered the fact he was born of a virgin, with an earthly father so willing to honor God with his life that he married a woman who was already pregnant.  In that day and time, a very taboo thing.  We also saw how the mother of Christ was chosen by God and given the dramatic news that she would carry the Son of God.  Imagine her awe, but also see her tremendous amount of fear as she would have received this announcement, knowing all she knew about the time in which she lived about how a woman out of wedlock showing up pregnant would be treated.  We also explored the lowly birth of Jesus in a stable of sorts, surrounded by animals, visited by shepherds, and then honored by magi from afar.  The announcement of his birth was by angels - start to finish.  Mary heard from an angel (a messenger from God), while Joseph was set at ease by a messenger from God on another occasion - assuring him the thing he was about to do in marrying Mary wa

A brilliant display indeed

Love from the center of who you are ; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply ; practice playing second fiddle. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. (Romans 12:9-12) Integrity and Intensity don't seem to fit together all that well, but they are uniquely interwoven traits which actually complement each other. "Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it." God asks for us to have some intensity (fervor) in how we love (from the center of who we are), but he also expects us to have integrity in our love as he asks us to be real in our love (don't fake it). They are indeed integral to each other. At first, we may only think of integrity as honesty - some adherence to a moral code within. I believe there is a little more to integrity than meets the eye. In the most literal sense,

Do me a favor

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care—then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. (Philippians 2:1-4) Has God's love made ANY difference in your life? What is that difference? Most of us will likely say that our lives were changed for the good, while others will say there was a dramatic change. Some left behind lifestyles marked by all manner of outward sin - like drug addiction, alcoholism, prostitution, or even thievery. There are many that will admit the things they left behind were just a bit subtler - what we can call inward sin - things like jealousy,