As can really only happen in spiritual reading, several different things I meditated upon this morning struck deep chords in me...
[The disciples] had rowed three or four miles when they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming towards the boat. This frightened them, but he said, 'It is I. Do not be afraid'. (John 6)You can go out and you will live. You will live eternally because Jesus is the Lord of life. That is the ecstasy. You can start participating in it every time you step out of your fear and out of the sameness. It doesn't require big jumps, but simply small steps.
1 One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. 2 He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. 3 Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”
5 “Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” 6 And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! 7A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.
8 When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.” 9 For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. 10 His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.
Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” 11 And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.
I am like Peter. With my mouth I declare obedience, but internally I am skeptical, and keep myself at arm's length. After all, if my expectations remain small, I won't be disappointed, right?
I love Peter's response when the great catch of fish happens... his first reaction is not "Yippee! It's payday!" because now he'll make a ton of money on the haul of fish. Instead, his soul is pierced and the true state of his fearful, willful spirit is revealed. In embarrassment he tells Jesus to leave.
Then I read this quote by Richard Foster, who wrote Celebration of Discipline, among other outstanding books:
We have real difficulty here because everyone thinks of changing the world, but where, oh where, are those who think of changing themselves? People may genuinely want to be good, but seldom are they prepared to do what it takes to produce the inward life of goodness that can form the soul. Personal formation into the likeness of Christ is arduous and lifelong.
This morning I am reminded of so many things...
...that personal growth comes through consistent and small steps more than giant mountaintop experiences;
...that unconsciously I always hold back ~ my fears are ever present, and must be uncovered constantly;
...that I will be chipping away at these things, with God's great grace and endless power, for the rest of my days.
A prayer from St. Benedict states it beautifully:
Therefore we must prepare our hearts and our bodies
to do battle under the holy obedience of His commands;
and let us ask God
that He be pleased to give us the help of His grace
for anything which our nature finds hardly possible.