I just got home from a 4-day flyfishing trip with friends on the Elk River. As I hoped, the experience left me feeling refreshed and recharged to face the daily challenges that vacation days are created to help us escape from.
As I sat back down at my desk this morning (and got caught up on all my e-mails, traffic on the WVAngler.com message board and activity on my Facebook page) I turned to John 21 to finish preparing my sermon for church tomorrow (I’m filling in for Pastor Steve, who was also on vacation last week).
Before I left, I had already outlined my basic premise for the talk–about how Jesus reveals key truths about the disciples’ identity and his own through this story about a fishing trip (vv.1-14). But when I began to pull together the pieces for the message this morning, it struck me how directly the metaphor connected to my own experience.
I often find myself in that state of mind that Peter and the other disciples must have found themselves in at the beginning of the passage. Frustrated, confused, and more than a little restless. And, like I imagine Peter might have done, when those stresses begin to escalate I want to escape somewhere–not to run away from the situation so much as to gain a new perspective on it.
If you can buy into that theory, you might see that the disciples’ fishing trip is not a retreat away from the life they are called to…we might see it more like a vacation; an escape from the space where stress, confusion and frustration rule, into a relaxing, comfortable, familiar zone. Like all of us do from time to time, they needed to get their heads in a different place in order to understand and deal with the new reality they were facing. And Jesus meets them in that space and re-focuses their perspectives. He calls them into their own identities and reinforces his own identity to them. He feeds them, both literally and figuratively, so they can go into the world to carry out the mission he has taught and groomed them for (notably, the rest of the chapter tells of Jesus’ reinstatement of Peter).
I read through some Bible commentaries to get a sense for what the scholars who study these things have to say about this passage. Mostly they talked about themes like surrender, obedience and faith. And certainly, those are at the core of the disicples’ experience. But it also points to that need we all share to just simply change our surroundings sometime to clarify our perspectives.
Sometimes you can’t see your way through a situation, or even the daily routine, until you get away from it.