Luke 5:5-11 (the message)
Simon said, “Master, we’ve been fishing hard all night and havent 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 and help them. They filled both boats, nearly swamping them with the catch.
Simon 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.
Jesus 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.
As I’m highlighting the scripture text above Rivers comes into the kitchen. My girls are late getting their flu shots so we are going by the docs before school. I have something on my heart related to the verses above, but I have to start with Rivers. Cause sometimes children say things, share their hearts in such honest ways, that it overwhelms my adult pretense.
She came into the kitchen looking for tape. True to Rivers’ personality, she stopped to tell me all about why she needs the tape. It starts with her hands cupped together and these words:
Place your plans in God’s hands because His are bigger.
I sit in my chair semi-stunned. What? Did my child just say this to me? I ask Rivers, did you come up with that? She says no, it’s what they are learning in church right now. Her great tape idea comes from church, as well. Even now I can hear the rustle of wrapping paper upstairs. My daughter has written her plans on a piece of paper and is wrapping the paper in a shoebox that will say, To God From Rivers. She is going to place her gift under the tree and on Christmas morning remember to always give God her plans.
Really, I’m just sitting here listening to the paper rustle. Leighton in her high-chair across from me, one arm out of her shirt sleeve because that is her new thing. Leah still snoozing. Life is common, and yet these are uncommon moments. My grown up heart, my grown up wish-list and dreams and “plans” easily come into focus at the words of my eight-year-old. I told Rivers I want to do it, too. She has another shoe box she says I can use.
So…as for the scripture above. When I read this my heart is so touched by Peter’s words: Master, leave. I picture him so overcome with who he is as a human man in contrast with who Jesus is. Peter is probably known for being the most “colorful” disciple. So, he probably has “a past.” Probably would have been voted most unlikely to succeed as a Pastor. You know what I’m saying? Peter is drawn to Jesus, though. Enough that he’s following Him around and even willing to do what Jesus says, like throw the net out even though they hadn’t caught a thing all day.
This is just the way I’m seeing it this morning. I’m no Bible scholar. But I imagine that realizing who Jesus is, realizing he’s in the presence of such holiness, gave Peter a very clear picture of how unworthy he really was. I picture the weight of shame crashing down on him. And when there is shame, there is typically hiding.
About a year after I was married I decided to brave the doors of my childhood church. I was nervous. Sat in the back. Didn’t really want to face the Pastor I’d known for years. I just knew when he looked at me he would know every terrible thing I had done while I was avoiding those doors. I smile as I remember. I can still see him walking back toward me and he said (genuinely), Well this is a pleasant surprise. I have no idea how I responded, but I do remember the message was about forgiveness. Some things, and the timing, are unforgettable.
A few weeks later I had inched up a bit closer to the front. We were singing these words in worship:
Better is one day in Your courts
Better is one day in Your house
Better is one day in Your courts
Than thousands elsewhere
I will always remember the miracle that took place in my heart during those moments…my empty net was suddenly bursting with fish. My dry and empty heart was suddenly filled to capacity. I wept. I could not contain my sorrow, my shame and my hope. I cried so hard a woman named Angie Tucker (I still remember) passed a tissue over my shoulder from behind. See, in the light of His presence, in the reality of Who He is, my guilt was overwhelming and yet the love and presence of Jesus was as real, probably more real, than ever.
There is nothing to fear.
I heard Him whisper to me that day in church. Not in words but in the feel of His love releasing me, forgiving me and comforting me. I heard His words in the fresh start, the beginning again. Like Peter, I knew I was unworthy and part of me wanted to run away from the light of truth. I have been learning ever since that Jesus is the worthy One and because He loves me I have nothing to fear from Him.
Shame is a back-breaker. Like a suitcase you can barely close, it’s hard to manage. It’s tiresome and hard and draining. It’s the kinetic action, the knee-jerk response, of our heart when holiness is near. We want to look away, to leave for fear of being left. But Jesus is saying the same thing to you and I that He said to Peter that day.
You have nothing to fear. It’s necessary we see who we are and Who He is. Really, we don’t want Jesus until we recognize our sin-sick need for a Savior. It’s imperative we see the truth about ouselves so we can see just how wonderful-good He truly is. In spite of our past. Because of our past! Often it is not the things of our past that keep us from Jesus. It is the shame we cannot let go of, our fear of the light of holiness, that puts distance between Him and us.
What might you hear today if you don’t run away? If you let His love and grace override the shame? If you acknowledge who He is and who you are and let that be that. Jesus told Peter that from then on he would be fishing for men and women. What plan does Jesus have for your life if only you’ll let go of the past and embrace a fresh start?
Goodness, Rivers is right for us all, you know!? God plans are bigger. Bigger than our past, our sin, our fear, our shame. But we must put it all in His hands. We must take our plans, hopes, and even our shameful sin and trust Jesus. Make a gift of our brokenness. Sit it under the tree or on an altar.
Remember that in the truth of His love and forgiveness we have nothing to fear.