In John 21, the disciples have caught nothing. All night long they have been fishing the lake to no avail. Their nets are empty, they must be exhausted. No doubt, they have a remit to fulfil. They are required to deliver their catch to the markets so that they might earn their livings and satisfy demand. How many of us in that situation would have continued to fish throughout the next day too?
But after daybreak, Jesus standing on the beach, says to them:
'Children, you have caught no fish, have you?'
We all face this at some time or another. What do we say in return? I am working on it but I am one of those people who seems to need to qualify everything. Do we not justify our failures sometimes, waffle through lengthy excuses? But look at the disciples' reply. It is a simple 'No'. This is the only word that they speak. Their next words are 'It is the Lord!' where we sense with them their relief and joy.
There is something liberating about that 'No.'
God can work through the 'No'.
We must admit our limitations, those seeming failures, out of which God can bring fruit, or fish in this case!
After their 'No,' the disciples are open to God. They are ready to rely upon him completely, they have surrendered their own determination, they are waiting on his grace, they are open to listening to him, aware that they can not do this alone and they are instructed clearly and emphatically as a consequence, no riddles here, no ambiguity, no...'take time to interpret what I mean', they are simply directed to drop their nets on the right side rather than the left of the lake.
They are obedient. They still have to work and it is still hard, but now they are working in cooperation with God. The nets become so heavy they can hardly lift them, there is still struggle here but it is a joyful struggle. Imagine those flapping tails, the salt-water spraying everywhere, the laughter and the abundance, for abundance is what there is.
They sit by that fire on the beach afterwards and count those fish: there are 153! Not only will they fulfil their remit for the markets, they are nourished also on the very fish they have have caught as they sit and eat with the Lord.
When we work in conjunction with God, he will not leave us hungry. When we work in cooperation with God, we will struggle, for this is the nature of work in a fallen world, but he will not leave us broken. When the disciples pull up their nets, they must have been amazed: their nets are in tact, even under the strain of such a huge quantity of fish; they are undamaged.
Sometimes we might need to say 'No' like the disciples before we can say 'Yes' to God.
Sense the liberation of the 'No', where we admit our own limitations.
Rather than feeling like we are letting people down, we might just wait and trust to see what God will do next. His is the plan, we are but his co-workers. His is the work but he invites us to lift the nets, his is the catch but he invites us to row with him, and we share in the feast.
For many of us the weather last week will have caused crisis, of sorts, something so much larger than our will and desires, our aims and agenda stood in our way, like those waters not relinquishing their fish. When we have the grace to accept, we might leave room for God to work, God might just provide the help that we need whether this be in his provision of the patience we need to relinquish our plans to him, now dashed, or whether it's in his provision of that directing other, 'turn your wheel,' 'let me help guide you out,' 'I'll clear your driveway,' 'We'll travel together,' 'Have a lift with me' or 'Today, we'll just stay home, the world will continue to turn without us...'
I got to stay home.