I am grateful for all who read our blog and for those who have posted comments over the past year. I have truly enjoyed the conversations that were sparked and continued here at inamirrordimly. Josh and I began this blog in order to post our thoughts on God, church, life and culture, and to leave space for collaboration and mutual encouragement.
Posted below is my late Christmas present for all of the readers of this blog and friends unfortuante enough to be in my gmail contacts. Thanks for stopping by! I pray that this little story is a blessing to you and that you will continue to discover the height, depth, length, and breadth of God’s love this new year as you follow him.
The routine was embedded into their minds. Each action etched into stone, solid and gray in its monotony. Responsibility for growing families propelled them to work each day, and the comfort of their hereditary occupation swept them up in its tightly woven cycle. Commercial fishing was a career the brothers never chose. It slowly encompassed them, gradually tightening its grip until it was the only path conceivable. And so they passed the guard house at the town entrance on their way down to the lake.
Life under a foreign military occupation was generally peaceful, but flashpoints of savage brutally could be kindled by misguided revolutionaries, corrupt officials, or bored soldiers. Fishing was such that it kept the brothers busy and out of trouble. Meddlesome tax officials were the typical disturbance for the status quo, and they were easily relaxed by a generous bribe. Working out on the lake simplified life for the brothers, keeping them sheltered from the town’s corruption for the most part.
Fishing was a hit and miss business that combined skill and chance. They had sometimes gone days without catching more than a few fish to feed their own families. Other times the fish would seem to jump into the boat, breaking their nets, and creating hours of work to mend each link. Despite their own struggles, the market in town had seen a sudden influx in fish, causing the price to drop nearly to half the standard price.
Though this was sure to increase over the next six months, the brothers, Simon and Andrew, had already been discussing the need to cut back on costs and helpers. Even bountiful catches yielded meager profits, and several loans were rapidly accruing interest. Just keeping the business afloat over the next year would strain them down to the last penny. Simon was particularly overwhelmed with these troubling thoughts while rowing away from the shore.
Hours of work yielded a few fish and a twisted mess of nets. As Simon surveyed the twisted and worn nets that were dipping into the clear water, he noticed a dark figure moving toward him on the shoreline. Straining his eyes from the bow of his boat, he could see now that it was the village carpenter.
Simon was particularly fond of Jesus. He charged fair rates for his excellent work, knew the Torah and Prophets as if they were intimate friends, and always had a wise reply on reserve. While the black sheep of his family, Jesus was generally respected by the village, if not held in mystical awe at times. What in the world is he doing down by the lake at this time of day?
The net was tangled again and fish flopped about. The laborers struggled to straighten it out, slipping and grunting in their boats. Simon swore under his breath as the now empty net was hauled into the boat. Tugging at the remainder of the net with his arms submerged in the cool water, a boney elbow struck Simon in his side. The owner of the elbow remarked, “Simon, Jesus is waving you in.”
Figuring that additional effort to untangle the net was futile, he rowed a smaller boat to shore. It was a relief to free himself from the tangled mess of net and frustration—the knowledge that another day has ended in failure, the added pressure of providing for the family with no visible income.
After dragging the boat onto the soft mud, Simon turned to see Jesus patiently staking him out, sitting on a large log near the shore with his broad shoulders relaxed in their covering of homespun cloth. Sensing that Simon was lost in his thoughts, Jesus glanced out to the boats struggling with their nets off shore and mindlessly tapped his calloused fingers on the log. In an attempt to leave room for a variety of answers, Jesus gently coughed and muttered, “So Simon, what’s the word?”
Simon quickly cut to the chase, “We can’t seem to haul in more than a handful of fish at a time, we haven’t made a profit in 3 months, and I can’t pay my bills. Other than that, things are as pleasant as a pomegranate.”
“That good?” Jesus replied. “I thought it was more like four, but you know how reliable village gossip is.”
“Who the hell has Andrew been talking to now?” quipped a reddening Simon.
“Just the usual crowd next to my shop, but what does that matter?” Simon shrugged, but continued to stew.
“Simon, it seems to me like you need a career change. And before you roll your eyes and tell me to shove off, hear me out.” Folding his hands neatly together and looking in Jesus’ general vicinity, Simon put on his best “listening” face, the one he always offered his exasperated wife.
“Thanks,” mumbled Jesus. Sighing deeply he began, “You may know the top fishing holes or the best bait to use, but you won’t drag in one minnow unless God draws it in. And as someone who knows a thing or two about God, I can tell you, your fishing days are over.”
Simon’s jaw dropped. “I’ve worked on a boat for as long as I could walk. Now you’re telling me that I have to give it up? What about my family, my business, my . . .” Peter’s hands flailed up in the air helplessly as the words trailed off. He knew in the deepest darkness of his heart that his fishing days were indeed about to end. Sagging profits, small catches, mounting despair—everything he had ever known was failing him.
“Simon, have you ever heard it said, ‘God has a purpose for your life, and until you find it your life will never make sense’?”
“No, what does it mean for me today?”
“I’m not sure; I’ve always found that saying kind of vague. Just checking. Actually, what I really think is that God specifically wants you to work with me, preaching God’s new message for all people about his coming Kingdom.”
“Jesus, what are you getting at? Are you calling me to be some kind of prophet?”
“In a sense, yes, but let’s keep it simple. I just want you to follow me and to become a fisher . . . of people.”
“So all I have to do is follow you and fish for men and women? What does that have to do with the Kingdom?”
“You’ll see it for yourself on the front lines. God is about to unleash the power of his salvation in the world. The cost of following me will be very steep up front, but the rewards and fulfillment will far exceed anything you can catch in one of your nets.”
As Jesus spoke these words, the past loosened its grip on Simon. The fear of losing his career, disappointing his family and losing the respect of his town fell away. His heart lightened. Yes, I can leave my life of fishing behind and join Jesus in doing the work of God. What could be more important than that? And besides, my fishing business is taking in water and going down fast.
“Alright, I’m in. Where do we start?”
“A new name,” replied Jesus. “You are no longer Simon the fisherman, you are now Peter, my solid rock.”