Reaching the End of Yourself (Part 2)
In our last post we were observing Simon Peter enountering Jesus in the midst of his empty boat. Having spent all night fishing he has caught nothing. His professional skills have deserted him. He will soon have to return to his wife to explain there will be no money from the sale of fish today.
But before he finishes mending his nets… Jesus appears and asks to borrow his empty boat. And it is here that we observe what can happen when we reach the end of ourselves. After his teaching concludes Jesus turns to Peter with a simple, yet probing instruction:
A professional fisherman knows you do not fish in the day time in shallow waters. Jesus seems to be talking nonsense and I wonder if the instruction is designed to test its hearer. Was Simon really at the end of himself? Did he have further schemes up his sleeve, just a few more things he could attempt to attract the fish into his nets? Or was he willing to trust what people were saying about this religious teacher… that he could be the messiah.
When we reach the end of ourselves its usually because we’ve exhausted all our options. We’ve tried everything we can think of to get around the situation we face and finally we admit we cannot change it ourselves. Many of my friends and family are struggling with health issues at the moment. Try as they may to get the right medical care, the process is long and frustrating. Appointments take months, even years longer than they used to and getting through to a GP seems like a mammoth task. It is not only in the health system that people are reaching the end of what they can control much sooner than we are accustomed to. As the cost of living sky rockets, what used to be an everyday item is beginning to look like a luxury. This season we are facing as a nation is one where the options and solutions that used to be open to us – no longer are. We have fewer choices over our health and over our money.
While these situations are not ideal and I wouldn’t wish them on anyone, I do believe they present us with an opportunity. There is a potiential blessing that comes when we realise how little control we actually have over our own existence. In the midst of this realisation can come a new openess to God and his guiding. In these circumstances we reach a cross road of choices.
The Patrisitc Father Ignatius once spoke of two kind of moments that face us in life; consolations and desolations.
Consolations are those moments we become aware that we are moving towards God’s active presence in the world. For example; we may be increasing in the gifts of the spirit, feel able to understand and receive His love for us. Desolations on the other hand, are when we face times when God feels distant, our spiritual lives seems dry and we may become aware of growing resentment or resistance towards God and those trying to lead us towards Him. Iganius suggested that behind both our consolations and desolations is the same Spirit of God ever ready to draw us to the Father. However, the decision on how we respond to the Spirits lead in those moments remains up to us.
This is what we observe in Simon Peters moment of desolation. His boat sits empty on the shore, dry and devoid of life. Yet into this place, walks the saviour of the world, ready to issue fresh instructions and draw Simon into a fresh faith encounter. And to Simons credit, despite his scepticism, he obeys the bizarre request.
Simons response is revealing and very helpful to those of us who find ourselves deplete. He is NOT full of faith. In fact he sounds cynical and like he is humoring Jesus. But what happens next encourages me no end. In Simons sceptical, exhausted, yet obedient hands; a miracle occurs.
Join me for the next reflection in Part 3…