Have you ever been at the end of your rope, so to speak?
I know I have.
I’m not sure what picture comes to mind for you when you hear that saying, but for me I envision someone frantically pulling a rope towards themselves in the hopes that something promising would be attached to it. But to the person’s dismay, they not only come to the dissapointing end of the rope, they also find that whatever “thing” they hoped was attached to it isn’t there either.
I’ve been reading through the book of Luke this month and I came across a very familiar Bible story that spoke to me in a very unfamiliar way.
In Luke 5 we pick up the narrative with Jesus being surrounded by a crowd of desperate people waiting to hear from Him. In the midst of the madness Jesus notices two empty fishing boats left vacant by some very disappointed fishermen, (one of which was the soon-to-be Apostle Peter, who is being referred to now as Simon).
The passage then follows a very bold Jesus commandeering two “strangers” boats to teach the crowd of people. Then almost without the reader realizing it, the focus of the passage shifts dramatically. Jesus, who was attune to the disappointed hearts of a few fishermen “washing their nets” directs his attention to these men by saying:
“Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.” To which Simon (aka Peter) responds by saying, “Master, we worked hard all night [to the point of exhaustion] and caught nothing [in our nets], but at Your word I will [do as you say and] lower the nets [again].
Can you picture it? All night long pulling up the “rope” with the hope and expectation of good, only to find over and over again the end of an empty rope? The language in the amplified version gives us the very human picture of how these fishermen felt. They “worked hard all night to the point of exhaustion and caught nothing.”
I think we can all relate to this feeling. Even though I’m betting many of us are not toiling all night as fishermen (or women), we can all identify with the feeling of working hard, praying hard, believing hard, (fill in the blank), to the point of exhaustion, only to find that we came up dry, empty-handed, and empty-hearted.
When Jesus found these fishermen they had left their boats to go wash their very empty nets (like they needed another reminder of their disappointment). Can’t you see them? Walking out of their boats exhausted with heads bowed low?
But what I’ve never seen before in reading this story is that by these disappointed fishermen leaving their empty boats behind to wash their nets, they unknowingly created a space for Jesus, the hope of the world, to come and fill their boats and hearts, with Himself.
Disappointment threatens to empty us of hope, joy, and love (just to name a few), but what if the very things that seem to threaten defeat and emptiness were actually carving out space, and eliciting an invitation for the God of the universe to come and fill those places with Himself–the God who does beyond what I could ask for?
You know what the crazy thing is? This wasn’t even the part of the narrative that struck me most. It was actually Peter’s response to Jesus that stopped me in my tracks. I saw myself in the narrative, and heard my own words in Peter’s words.
“I’ve waited”….and nothing has changed.
But here is Jesus telling Peter to take those freshly washed nets and climb back into that boat, exhausted and all and….try again. Pray again. Believe again. And Peter’s simple act of obedience, (probably mumbling under his breath. I mean, at least that’s what I would have done), he basically tells Jesus, if you say so, I’ll try again.
As the story goes,“when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their nets were [at the point of] breaking..”
This simple but profound story is set within the larger story of Jesus and the purpose behind why He came. The Christmas story is one of hope for the one that is tired of hoping. It’s one of promises fulfilled for the one who is tired of waiting. It’s for the one who is longing to see and experience something far greater and sweeter than what this world has to offer. It’s for the forgotten and brokenhearted.
Whatever rope you have come to the end of, whatever empty boat you have left vacant, whatever nets you are washing off to try and also wipe away the memory of a disappointed hope–Jesus is waiting, there. He is waiting to step into that empty space and say to you, go again. Believe again. Trust me again, and watch me do for you so much more than you could ever hope, dream, or imagine.