During a very busy weekend , the phrase “the net did not break” jumped out at me from Sunday’s Gospel reading. . [John 21:11] It’s a familiar story, although I had never noticed this phrase before. Jesus appeared to Peter after the Resurrection, when he was fishing and not catching anything, and Jesus told him to try again. This time, there were more fish than the disciples could handle, but the net did not break.
I find this very encouraging. Fishing is hard work. And when God is doing big things, it can also be hard work. But no matter how hard, or how exhausted we might feel for a time, this scripture assures me, it will never be too much—“the net will not break.”
There’s a once popular song called On a Clear Day, whose words read in part:
On a clear day, rise and look around you
And you’ll see who you are.
You can hear from far and near
A word you’ve never heard before.
And on a clear day, on a clear day
You can see forever, and ever (etc.)
We’ve all experienced such days, when the sun defines and illumines all within its touch.The beauty and simplicity encourage, renew energy, and lift me from a negative fascination with problems.
I was thinking about this and a correlating scripture, 1 Corinthians 13:12, Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.
To view life clear of judgments, opinions, fluctuating emotions, and past misfortunes is a freedom well worth pursuing.
Our miniature poodle, Liberty, is aptly named. She’s independent and self-determined! Were she a person, I’m quite sure she’d be blunt and opinionated. Because she is diagnosed with iris atrophy which causes eye sensitivity to the sun, we want to keep her happy and healthy on daily walks. One of the Sister’s found sun visors for dogs and ordered a couple. We chose pastel, calico prints, and a sewing sister altered them to fit perfectly. (See picture below.) Liberty’s expression radiates, “Really? You expect me to wear this thing?” She initially tried everything available to remove it: wiggling, head shaking, rubbing her head on the grass. The truth is, the visor makes her walks more enjoyable and her eyes more comfortable and she realizes that. She’s learned to tolerate the humiliation for the “greater good.” Like Liberty, I usually know what I want, but not always what’s best for me. It requires humility to reconcile the difference.
I portray myself as a negative person. But I’m realizing that in the midst of my negativity, I nurture a constant ember of hope. It remains there, uncrushable and available, with the capacity to eradicate all gloomy inclinations. So I look at crusty, misshapen snow sculptures, bury my feet in frozen slush, stare out dirty windows and think, “Any day now.” A bird will sing, a crocus will emerge, we’ll wash the windows and I’ll smile, because God is in charge. Any day now. He’ll throw a handful of spring in His recipe, then pour it our direction.
I live in a wing of our Convent called “Elim”. It’s a Biblical name that means oasis, a shelter in the desert, a place of serenity and refuge. I’m fully aware that my personality brings daily chaos to the oasis, and that its godly purpose rests on fragile ground. One thing I can do is help create order and beauty in the space itself. I discovered an interesting verse, Psalm 93:5, that says: Your statutes, Lord, stand firm; holiness adorns your house for endless days. It occurred to me that all places (and people) dedicated to God should be adorned with holiness. I’m not sure what all that means, but I do know that beauty in ordinary things is an important component.
Sounds pompous doesn’t it? Let’s put it this way: isn’t a little forward progress better than none? If I refrain from a cupcake today and a hot fudge sundae tomorrow, I’m approximately 1100 calories to the good. If, three days from now, I gobble down a piece of pie, I’ve still consumed 1100 calories less than were offered to me. I make this point because I easily fold under the pressure of personal failure. I do not cheerfully “pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again” as the old song goes. A prayerfully considered declaration of intent, however, holds me accountable. It invites small memories of success that are grounded in faith and lead to the will of God.
Striving to be perfect is a crippling way to live. For me it’s a compulsive attempt to cover up all the inadequacies I feel about myself. Being free of this drive is largely why I was drawn to the Christian walk in the first place. But to this day, I find this addiction very difficult to give up. I want life to be black and white. I want there to be a textbook that lists the right ways and the wrong ways to do things — then I can master the text book and get straight A’s! The problem is that life doesn’t work like a textbook exam. I know it sounds silly, but what may be more silly, is that day after day I fall into the same trap of trying to drive my own life! That’s a lot of pressure to get straight A’s, and try to stay one step ahead of whatever might be coming next in life.
It can be terrifying to try and follow, to not know the plan ahead, or have all the answers for the next move. But it is also thrilling, exciting, relaxing, and necessary if we want to walk with Jesus. I’m reminded of His words, “I am the vine, and you are the branches.” Let’s not have our arrogance lie to us and tell us we need to be the vine also. For through His vine, we are offered a taste of the very best wine.
When I finished high school, I was given a new Bible. The front cover had a picture of a young man, about my age, with three questions; What’s the purpose of life? Does God care about me? And Does anything last? These are eternal questions, the type we ponder whether we are aware of them or not, whether we consider ourselves religious or not.
I’ve been studying a poem by William Wordsworth for a piece of music that our choir will be performing at an All Saints Day concert. One line reads, “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting.” Thinking about this line of text, there is a lot of theological belief packed into it. Wordsworth goes on to explain that “heaven lies about us in our infancy,” but as we grow up, “shades of the prison house” (earth) build up around us, and we forget from whence we came and to where we are headed.
I still don’t understand many of the answers to the three questions on the front of my Bible. But Wordsworth helps give me clues. When I choose to believe in Heaven as a place that I came from and am going to, small and large worries no longer seem significant. Life gains a tremendous purpose, hope, and bit of clarity as I remember that there is another vast world still to uncover.
I stepped outside for a quick breath of fresh air this morning and found a patch of sunshine. The warmth on my back felt wonderful, having emerged from an air-conditioned office. I think I sighed out loud which only my dog heard — a moment of relief.
The moment was shattered by a gentle gust of cold air, a whispered reminder that today is the last day of summer and we turn our face towards autumn, my favorite, and then winter. I shook off the breeze and headed back inside. And the thought blew across my mind — Truth is like that sometimes.
Sometimes we’re tempted to seek out a tiny patch of sun in our life and curl up to soak it in, halting any forward motion. In that moment a cool breeze passes over us carrying with it a word of truth we need to hear, or a poke to get us to keep going so we don’t settle for the little bits of sun.
And the question is, will we turn up our collar and tuck our head down to keep it out? Or will we let the breath of God shake our branches free of old leaves so they are ready to bloom again?
I’ve always been intrigued by the verse in Genesis that says, “but there went up a mist from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.” It puts this beautiful image in my mind of the Garden of Eden, colors alive with newness, in full bloom, and a fine mist hovering over it all catching the light. (I wonder if God gave a sneak preview of his rainbow).
I was up before the sun this morning — working on a project until it was time to take my dog out. I went a slightly different route than normal and arrived at the harbor around 6:30. The sun had just barely left the horizon, and was splashing the water with streaks of pink and gold. I stopped and my dog sat quietly. I turned my head to look towards the end of the harbor and there it was. Rising up from the water was a fine layer of mist, gently moving with the currents of air and rising to follow the sun. And, somehow, I felt some of my anxieties of the day lifting with it.