I read an entry on one of my favorite blogs the other day that has been bouncing around in my head ever since. I have recommended don't eat alone to you before...Milton's writing is truly a blessing to me. His wife, Ginger,is a pastor and he referenced one of her sermons the other day. As far as I can tell, the sermon was based on this passage from the book of Luke:
Push Out into Deep Water (The Message)
1-3Once when he was standing on the shore of Lake Gennesaret, the crowd was pushing in on him to better hear the Word of God. He noticed two boats tied up. The fishermen had just left them and were out scrubbing their nets. He climbed into the boat that was Simon's and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Sitting there, using the boat for a pulpit, he taught the crowd.
4When he finished teaching, he said to Simon, "Push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch."
5-7Simon said, "Master, we've been fishing hard all night and haven't caught even a minnow. But if you say so, I'll let out the nets." It was no sooner said than done—a huge haul of fish, straining the nets past capacity. They waved to their partners in the other boat to come help them. They filled both boats, nearly swamping them with the catch.
8-10Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell to his knees before Jesus. "Master, leave. I'm a sinner and can't handle this holiness. Leave me to myself." When they pulled in that catch of fish, awe overwhelmed Simon and everyone with him. It was the same with James and John, Zebedee's sons, coworkers with Simon.
10-11Jesus said to Simon, "There is nothing to fear. From now on you'll be fishing for men and women." They pulled their boats up on the beach, left them, nets and all, and followed him.
In Milton's post, he referenced several times this idea of "casting our nets into deeper waters." This is the phrase that has stuck with me since Sunday.
Sometimes, against our will, our boats get pushed into deeper waters...unknown, scary waters...and we wonder if we should paddle for shore or go ahead and do some fishing while we are there...we've heard rumors of some great fish from these waters. Or maybe, we are considering choosing a new fishing spot. When we first began fishing, the safer water near the shore felt just right. Now, however, we know every nook and cranny of those shallower waters and we suspect that it is time to move on to those deeper, less familiar waters. Yet, despite our boredom with these familiar waters, we do feel awfully safe and comfy here in our home near the shore, so we talk a lot about our plans to explore those deeper waters someday....just not right now. Sometimes, like in this story, Jesus calls us to intentionally push out into the deeper waters with Him and then invites us to cast our nets even though our experience tells us that the fishing has been really stinky lately. Knowing that He is an expert fisherman, we are drawn to explore those unknown waters in spite of our fear.
However we get there...pushed, dragged, pulled, beckoned, drawn, invited...the deeper waters hold different treasures than the shallow waters. I love the part in the story when Peter, overwhelmed by the enormity of the catch, cried out that he "can't handle this holiness. Leave me to myself." Of course, that's the thing about the deeper waters...we absolutely can't handle it by ourselves. Deeper waters require a guide...a lifeguard...someone to help us haul in our nets when we are overwhelmed by the magnificience of the catch. We aren't safe in the deeper waters. The deeper waters change and transform us. Once we cast our net in the deeper waters, the shallow waters lose their appeal.
This metaphor of deeper waters really resonates with me right now. I have the privilege right now of being involved in several small group settings where I hear the yearning of my fellow sojourners for deeper waters. Perhaps they have been stuck on the shore and are finally ready to put their toe in the water. Perhaps they have been too scared to venture far from shore in the past, but are finding it increasingly difficult to resist the invitation to explore the deeper waters. Perhaps they are just beginning to believe that Jesus is a trustworthy fishing guide. Perhaps, they have delved into the deeper waters before and were overwhelmed by the potential haul. In their fear....in MY fear...retreat to shallower waters seemed preferable to the heavy lifting that might be required by life in the deeper waters.
So, what do we make of all this talk of fishing? I guess my hope, my prayer, would be that we would all face towards the deeper water...whether we are on the shore or in up to our waist...and take one step deeper, one step further, one step closer. Then we let out our nets and see what happens!