I’m reading the latest book by one of my favorite authors right now, Mark Buchanan. Its title is Hidden in Plain Sight, and it is about virtue in the life of a Christ-follower. The key Scripture passage he refers to throughout the book is II Peter 1:3-8. (I was going to quote it here, but it doesn’t relate to the rest of this post, so I’ll let you look it up yourself.)
At several points in the book, Buchanan has included a lovely piece of creative writing, a “sanctified imagination” kind of meditation on the life of the apostle Peter. The first one, written first person in the voice of the apostle James, describes one of the apostles’ earliest encounters with Jesus (see Luke 5:1-11).
It was the day Jesus co-opted Peter’s boat for a pulpit, and then suggested a deep sea fishing trip. The fishermen had just spent a long, unproductive night on the water and in fact had just finished cleaning their nets. But Peter reluctantly agrees to go out again anyway. He flings his net overboard with attitude. “He knew how to set that net down on water as quietly as pulling a blanket over a sleeping child, but that day he lashed the water with it, calculated to spook the fish.” (page 73)
Buchanan’s beautiful prose continues through the miraculous catch, Peter’s throwing himself at Jesus’ feet: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Jesus tells him not to be afraid; from now on he will catch men. And then the writer pulls the rug out from under my feet, because he describes something I have never pictured, in all the years I’ve read this story:
“And as soon as He said it, we knew He meant right now. He meant for us to choose before we landed, no waiting, no talking. Just decide.
Peter stood up and started tossing fish in the lake. We watched for a moment, then joined him. They hit the water stiff as wood, but after a few seconds they shook their tails, and dove. Those fish sank down in blackness, like fistfuls of silver we had to jettison in a storm.
But afterward, we felt light. Peter stepped ashore and started running.” (page 74)
I had to go back to Luke, shaking my head in doubt, in order to make sense of this image. And there it was:
“So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:11) Would fishermen leave a boatful of perfectly good fish to rot? Of course not. So what did they do with that miracle catch? They threw it back.
Does this thought leave anyone but me gasping for breath and fumbling for a kleenex? What have I left behind in order to follow Jesus? What treasure dumped into the deep rather than carry excess baggage on my journey? Or am I still dragging a caravan-load of dead weight at my back, thinking, “Well, maybe I’ll need this some day”? Is anyone else convicted by this thought? What have you left behind in order to follow Him? What would you like to throw overboard?
“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)