the temptation to go back

I wonder why they went back to fishing. By definition they weren’t mere, smelly fishermen anymore. They were followers of Jesus. He’d called them to drop their nets and follow Him. They did.

That was three years ago. Unless I’m wrong, I don’t think they’d had their hands around slippery fish in all that time.

Now, Jesus is dead. The tomb is empty and Mary Magdalene is weeping. She runs to tell Peter and John that Jesus’ body is gone. The men see and believe.

The men go back to their homes. (What was that conversation like, I wonder?) Mary stays. (A great story for another day.)

The next day, “when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!'” (John 20:19).

Yet, in the next scene we see Peter announcing he’s off to fish. A few disciples scamper after him.

So Peter, the now-fisher-of-men, goes back to the fish. He’s most likely a capable man. He knows well how to do the job: location, timing, equipment. He’s no novice. Fish aren’t always predictable, but I wonder if he thought that that life was more predictable than the one following Jesus.

His thoughts were probably racing from the events of the last days: the triple-piercing crow of the rooster, the blood-letting death of his Hero, the peace-offering word of a resurrected Jesus.

Maybe sea air was good for a confused and grieving soul.

Maybe Peter thought, Let me come back to what I know that I know. What I’m good at. What my complicated life was before Jesus.

So the men fished. And they caught a whopping…nothing.

And then enters Jesus, stage left, but they don’t know it’s Him. He comes to them. He gives them fishing advice: “just throw your nets on the other side.” (I wonder what that did to their pride.) They did and the nets were bursting.

John realizes it’s Jesus and jumps in the water to race to the shore to see Him, surrounded by breakfast ready for the disciples.

I’m Peter’s daughter. I left my nets and my plans and said yes.

But the years have passed and the naivity of that choice is gone. I knew that following Jesus wouldn’t be merely WD-40 for a squeaky life. But I didn’t think it’d carry losses like this. And so, like Peter, my heart gets bruised and I bolt down the well-worn path. Back to what I know.

I assemble all the elements of seeming-control that I can, whether it’s working harder at the office, reading yet another book on taking hold of a disordered part of my life or organizing our spice jars to the surprise of my roommate (who asked if everything was OK with me. I’d also installed a closet organizer that weekend, too. She was onto me. I was clammering).

And so, like Peter, I net nothing.

But then my wounded heart falls in love with Jesus all over.

He comes to me. In the room when I’ve locked myself inside for fear of where this life of following Him is leading me. He comes to me when I’m in the throws of throwing myself into what used to define me.

If I was Jesus I would give up on me. I would say, “Angie, you should know better. It’s your turn. You come to me. I’m tired of coming after you. You’re seeking Life apart from me. You know you can’t and won’t find it. I’ve given you 43 chances, but I’m done. I’m tired, Angie. You just don’t get me.”

But He doesn’t. As scripture says, it’s His kindness that leads to repentance. Repentance that I ever looked elsewhere for a safe life.

Resurrection life that He gives His children isn’t safe. It’s not nice. It’s not mild-mannered. It’s not predictable.

The temptation to go back to the boats is great. To “take my ball and go home.” To say, “If You’re going to play like this, I don’t want to play.”

But I’m learning that running down to the boats isn’t a viable option anymore. It only offers distraction.

So herein lies faith: to stay (and not run) and trust my resurrected Jesus’ hands as proof that He loves me. That He spares nothing for me that’s for my good. That He, alone, offers Life.

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