It makes perfect sense to me that God brought me here, beside a clear, turquoise sea that shines like burnished silver, iridescent in the day’s dying light, to remind me to be available to Him. Every day, He asks me to be available, waiting, watching, surrendered. The doing remains His, the surrendering entirely mine.
God gave us a week here, Kevin and me, a week of sea breezes, gentle rest, and spiritual centering. And I’m not saying He wouldn’t have spoken to me in another place, just that it’s like Him to sit a mermaid like me on a breathtaking beach to get my attention. I’m saying that He loves me that much, to show me the deeper things while my eyes are trained on anchored sailboats a few hundred yards away, while I’m sitting on a promontory of wave-beaten stone, while a Pelican swoops gracefully in the sky above and then suddenly free falls into the water in front of me. The Pelican’s beak slices the clear water with precision, like a blade, and he buries it deep, lifting his head only to swallow the fish captured in his throat. And then a man wades by waist deep, a fishing net bunched in one raised hand, a painter’s bucket dangling just over the water in another.
How like Him to bring me here to think about a fisherman who wanted to be a prince, who learned to fish a whole new way for a whole new catch, a fisherman who became a shepherd. How like Him to bring me here to think about becoming the new I am, to taste with Kevin the truth of Bonhoeffer‘s words,
When Jesus calls a man, he bids him ‘Come and die,’
even while I’m feasting on honeyed papaya and passion fruit. And the unmistakable irony brings the blade home. Truly, God asks us to do the hardest thing–to die to ourselves—and all the while, He pours out grace upon precious, beautiful, breathtaking grace. This week I’ve been thinking:
He died that I might live, and He asks me to do the same, to die that He might be seen, that His story might be told all the way through the cross to the glory of the resurrection.
I only know what some of that means for this life, and I sit looking at turquoise water, listening to the soft murmur of the sea, feeling small and terrified. And I feel overwhelmed with excitement about becoming, and full of joy that He loves me so much. He loves me enough to help me become the new I am.
I don’t have just a single memory of the way He gathered me in, not just one moment when someone pointed and I knew Him. Does anyone really have that? Surely my parents found Him first, and they spent my childhood with arms extended, showing me, with voices raised to tell. This pointing, this gift of calling out, “Look! It is the Lord,” I see that as the single most precious gift anyone ever gave to me. It’s everything I want for my children too, for them to see and know and love and follow. Every day, I grasp their hands and tell them I’ve found the Lord, and I try to lead them to Him. I’ve been told by some that this is brainwashing, all this pointing. But when I tell my children not to touch a hot stove, or that spoiled food will make them sick, or not to walk on broken glass, am I brainwashing them then? When I tell them to look both ways to cross the street, to be careful of strangers; when I tell them how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly and they gasp, is that brainwashing too? When a mother teachers her children the way to be safe and not hurting, the way to cherish and live and love and know—isn’t that really loving them? Because the day I met Him was the day I lived. He is not some philosophy to me, not a theory, not even a theology. He is life, all breath, all love, all knowing, all grace. So yes, pointing them to Him is mothering, it’s breathing, it’s loving them.
I suppose that’s what Andrew thought too, the day he pulled his brother away from their nets and the boats and took him to Jesus. It’s what you do when you love someone and you’ve found the Lord. Peter, too, would not just have one memory of their beginning, of his first living.
It really began the day Andrew heard John the Baptist say, “Look, the Lamb of God!” Andrew had been following the rough, eccentric preacher in the desert, the one calling for repentance, the one baptizing everyone apart from the Pharisees, the one who called the pious religious leaders a bunch of snakes. But the day John pointed his weathered finger at his cousin and proclaimed the truth, Andrew left John and followed Christ.
So Andrew brought Peter to Jesus. Andrew had spent an entire day at the teacher’s house, just listening and wanting to be, and then found his brother right away. “Simon,” Andrew said, for that had been his name—“hearing” or “the one who hears”—“we have found the Messiah!” Maybe it wasn’t right then, maybe it was later that Peter realized that someone else always figures it out first, someone else serves as interpreter, someone else helps us all to see. Somewhere along the way, we’ve all been blessed by someone loving us enough to take us to meet Him.
The day Andrew took Peter to Jesus was the day Jesus gave him a new name. Peter had just drawn near, still Simon, still just the one who hears, still not sure even who the teacher was, when Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John,” and this before they’d been introduced, the LORD already knowing, already seeing through him, “You will be called Cephas.” So in one moment, he went from hearing to rock, and Peter had no idea what this could mean. He could not have known the moment as his birth, the beginning of his becoming, the revelation that God would use a passionate, impulsive fisherman, that his bold confession would be the cornerstone for a kingdom. God’s love always accomplishes the crazy-impossible; a rock that quenches thirst; a fisherman becoming a Spirit-led shepherd; a woman like me becoming a vessel God uses (John 1: 35-42)..
For a while, they called him both. He was the hearing rock, Simon Peter.
From where I sit, underneath a hut-roof made of weathered wood and dried sea reeds, the water glistens like sea glass, softly lapping at rocks, and I wonder: Would that rock have heard had Moses actually spoken to it? He stood there, looking at hard, jagged, unyielding stone, feeling frustrated and equally cold, and he made the wrong choice. We will never know if the rock might have heard Moses speak, the power of God commanding through stuttering, inadequate lips.
The first time, at Horeb, Moses simply struck the rock and water poured forth. The lesson had been the same: God brought the water to their lips from stone, because He can (Exodus 17: 5-7). But the second time, at Kadesh, God told Moses to speak to the rock—speaking, the thing Moses really couldn’t do apart from God (Exodus 4:10-12). so it would not just be a rock hearing, but a man who can’t speak commanding the crazy-impossible using God’s voice. I think of this nearly every day, asking God to give His voice to a boy who can’t speak. And mercifully, He does. It’s part of Adam’s becoming.
But that day at Kadesh, Moses faltered. He hit the rock instead, twice, the thwack a nasty sound, his staff landing hard. And when Moses hit that rock, frustration propelling his arms, he said, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring water out of this rock?” At some point, overwhelming fear drives all of us to grab up all the doing in our impatient, unyielding hands. The truth smacks with a thwack, like that staff against the hearing rock: When I grab up the doing in my fearful, worrying hands, I am stealing glory from God. We will not know if that rock might have heard. So isn’t it beautiful that Peter’s becoming first meant a rock hearing the voice of a surrendered Savior? I think that in so many ways, that’s me too: a rock hearing, a rock changed into a quenching fount by the power of a living God.
When Moses hit the rock instead of speaking, it was after the tabernacle, after its consecration, after the glory of God resting there, the fire that killed Nadab and Ebihu, the earth swallowing Kohath and his friends, the golden calf and the Levites purging evil from the camp. All this, and still Moses fails to bring God glory. All this, and Moses loses his reward, and God says, “You did not trust me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites (Numbers 20: 1-12).” So a rock hearing, a rock impossibly yielding water to quench the thirsty, a fisherman becoming a shepherd of God’s people, this requires trust, and this honors God as holy in the sight of the people. But this would take some time and whole lot of mistakes. Because isn’t this how it always happens, the learning to trust? I’ve seen so much truth, so much of His love and power, and still I stand not expecting the rock to hear when He bids me speak to it that someone might be refreshed. But for Peter, being the hearing rock was just a beginning, a childhood.
The first day Peter called Him Lord was the day he left everything he knew to follow. That day, Jesus came to the shore and called Peter, Andrew, James, and John; four salty fishermen, four wind-blown, water-loving, weather-beaten men, and commanded them to follow. I can relate. I sit on the beach, tasting salt on my lips, and He meets me here yet again, reminding me what loving Him means, calling me to follow.
Peter had a life. He had a family career that brought in enough money for a house, that fed a wife (Matthew 8:14). But the night before Jesus called him, the nets had come up empty in the dark. Empty in the dark—that’s really what life is—what my life was—before Jesus helped Himself to it, before I called Him Lord.
Katie Davis wrote, “You see, Jesus wrecked my life (Kisses from Katie, intro.),” and that’s really what it is–the wrecking of a life, a remaking, a becoming.
The morning after a fruitless night of fishing, just as they’re washing the nets, Jesus comes bringing a crowd. Jesus, the man who knew Peter the moment He looked, the one who had given Peter a new name Peter didn’t yet completely fit into. This teacher climbs into Peter’s boat and asks him to put out a bit from the shore. And Jesus teaches the crowd, and Peter sits behind, watching the sea breezes blow the teacher’s hair, his clothes. Peter, still just Simon hearing, listens to Jesus teach. He watches the crowd respond. And then, as the lesson ends, Jesus turns to him and says, “Put out into deeper water and let the nets down for a catch.” And Peter thinks, “We did that all night and the fish aren’t biting, and I’m tired.” He says as much to the teacher, the one Andrew believes to be the Messiah, but he also says something else, something he means. “Because it’s you telling me, I’ll do it.”
So that’s what net-casting comes to mean to him: Doing the crazy-impossible thing, the how-can-this-possibly-work thing, the every-time-I’ve-tried-it-on-my-own-I’ve-come-up-empty thing, just because He says.
Peter casts and the Lord fills, so many fish that the net begins to break and it takes every hand to haul in the catch. And that’s when Peter sees who. That’s when he really sees. “Go away from me Lord, I’m a sinful man,” he cries out (Luke 5:1-11). And that’s just it. When we let Jesus do the miracle through our hands, when we do it because He says, we come face to face with the real truth about who. And we fear Him as Lord with the fear that is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10).
For Peter, this is the day Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid, now you will be a fisher of men.” This is the day Peter only begins to know that Jesus will wreck his life, tear it apart, and recreate it as something all new. “By my power,” Jesus speaks in the miracle, “You’re going to gather more men to me than humanly possible. It’ll take every hand to finish the work. You’re going to do the crazy-impossible, the you-don’t-even-know-how, the thing that’ll come up empty every time except when you do it through me, with my hands, my voice.” And that’s why Peter leaves it all behind—the boats, the nets, the sea, the business he knows. To do the crazy-impossible with Jesus.
And sitting here, anticipating the flight home, I know that’s what I want, too.
I want to forsake all else, and do the crazy-impossible with Jesus.