Despair and Desire

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Sea of Galilee, by Evy Vogler

I bet the sun flickered gently across the Sea of Galilee that morning. I bet it pierced the surface like a million shards of glass. The waves would have carried the light all the way to the shore, reflecting and refracting, winding and weaving. The sun, crashing in on wayward waters, would have settled on the rocks. The waves would have also carried two fishing boats; aboard the boats would be weary men, but no fish. I imagine their ropes and their nets were rough, even on calloused hands, as net after net came up empty. I imagine that bittersweet morning. I imagine those long, nighttime hours. I envision a night of toil and labor, spent chasing the wind and the fish and the hope, giving birth to nothing but a tired daybreak.

The story above, although presumptive in my descriptions, is very real. You will find it, accounted for with greatest detail, in chapter five of Luke’s gospel. Perhaps you also find traces of it reflected in your own present journey. For, it is a story soaked in the relatable truths of a broken humanity. These fishermen spent many long, dark hours on open water. Yet, they washed up to shore in the morning empty handed. We can only imagine that their patience was tested, as was their hope. Their empty hands only amplified the unyielding nature of their desire.

The things of this world that we want, even the good, eternal things, can weigh us down if we are not careful. Our desires, especially those postponed or unmet, can become a hindrance in our relationship with Christ. Our cravings can drive us away from Christ, rather than towards him; they can raise a barrier rather than build a bridge. Yet, our desires are not going anywhere and they are not, all, inherently bad. It is what we do with them, and how we respond to them, that will determine if we are brought closer to, or further from, the loving hand of God.

Jesus enters the scene of this story as the fishermen are stumbling to shore to wash their nets. Their boats are perched at the water’s edge and they are ready to go home. Amidst the somber scene, Jesus begins to teach. He climbs into Simon’s boat. And I can only imagine that the men, especially Simon, begin to listen. As Jesus concludes his lesson, he turns to Simon, singling him out with stinging words: “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch” (Lk. 5:4 ESV). After an endless night of empty nets, Jesus calls him out to fish.

Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets’” (Lk. 5:5).

Jesus asks each of us: Just one more time, let down your nets. How will you reply?

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Sea of Galilee view from the church of the Beatitudes, by Evy Vogler
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photo by Evy Vogler

Jesus beckons us to take the leap: will you trust him? Will you trust him enough to let down your nets, even when the odds suggest otherwise? The desires of the heart are many— some good and noble, some not. As followers of Christ, we are called to surrender them all to him. We surrender our failures and successes. We surrender our tired hands to do his work just one more time. And after all is said and done, we surrender our control and trust him with the outcome. Jesus knows the condition of our hearts when he asks. He knows we are tired from an endless night of striving. He knows we are weak with sin and unfulfilled expectations. He knows it all. He still asks. When we yield to his asking and step out in faith, we give him space to act:

“When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees…” (Lk. 5:6-8).

We persevere by trusting Christ. We turn to him as our ultimate satisfaction. And in his great grace, he often supplies our prayers with tangible answers. When we invite Jesus into our circumstances, things can change. He overwhelms our boats with fish. Yet, I wonder if he does this so that we will, in time, turn back to him with walking feet and praise-filled lips. Perhaps he satisfies our most earthly, deep desires so that, upon finding them fulfilled, we can compare them with the ultimate satisfaction of knowing him. We will find that all else pales with knowing Christ.

Jesus’ first disciples were just a handful of fishermen, with sweat-dried brows and dirt-laced fingernails. What they desired that morning was fish. They received endlessly more. I wonder if it was an act of fulfilled desire that called them to action and caused them to walk towards Jesus with all they had. I wonder if it was desperation. They left their boats and familiar shores to follow him; they left everything. They drew near to Jesus with awe-filled hearts. Simon, although weary and tired, yielded to Jesus’ gentle request. He let down his net just one more time.

May we be women who do the same.

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Wildflowers of Israel, by Evy Vogler

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