Go ahead. "Put out into the deep."

After a month of feeble-to-failed writing sessions, I made myself sit down to write yesterday morning.

I was pretty sure nothing would happen; I was tired and my head was full of practical matters. But I’ve been taught to show up, so, somewhat begrudgingly, I did.

The coffee shop was crowded and noisy. The table was too small. There were too many interruptions. And yet… 

…after I started filling pages with ink, inspiration came suddenly and unexpectedly, through a small and incidental detail as a customer pulled up a chair to a nearby table.

And now here it is, Sunday, and I’ve just come home from church, where Pastor Michael Kelly preached about the Peter the Fisherman. He read to us about how Peter was mending his nets after an exhausting night of failed fishing, when Jesus said “Put out into the deep with me and let down your nets.”

Peter, an expert in his trade, basically said, “Yeah, teacher… right. I just tried this all night long and got nothing. Watch, I’ll do what you say, and you’ll see how pointless this is.”

And then, unexpectedly… well, let me use Pastor Kelly’s words: “He’s up to his hips in fish. His nets are so full that his boat is sinking.” Peter realized that even though he was the skilled, seasoned fisherman, he was not the source of the blessing.

And that just goes to show… it isn’t my job to make something amazing happen. It isn’t my job to succeed. But I should practice my skills. I should keep my boat and my nets in shape. And I should maintain a pose of humble readiness — readiness, at all times, to serve.

When I rely on my own expertise, I end up frustrated. If I don’t “put out into the deep,” I can’t be blessed.

It’s our job to show up, and to keep our attention on the source of any and all blessing, and wait to see what he has for us today. No matter what we want to do with our tools, our bodies, our lives, our desires, they don’t belong to us. We’re to discipline ourselves, attending to what he wants us to be, obedient to the law he fulfilled, and trust that in this way he will bless us and everyone around us.

And we’re to expect great things. Jesus didn’t say, “Push offshore, but stay in the shallows.” At a time when experts would have told you that there would be no fish at all, Jesus told Peter to “Put out into the deep.”

I don’t think Peter looked at those bursting nets with pride. I think he was humbled. And when I look at these pages full of story, I pray that I’ll never forget where it comes from, and how — grouchy as I was at the coffee shop table — I was not worthy of any blessing at all.

And you have to see the comedy in it. There’s Peter, in a sinking boat, kneeling before Jesus, and in his shame and awe, he says, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.”

Can’t you see Jesus’ amusement? “Depart from you? Um… where exactly do you want me to go?”

 

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