January 24, 2019

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

By: Larry Shaffer

Lather, Rinse, Repeat 

John 21 

After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Seat of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way…Simon Peter said to them (his fellow disciples), ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘we will also come with you.’ They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing. 

But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. So Jesus said them, ‘children, you do not have any fish, do you. Cast the net on the other side of the boat and you will find a catch.’ So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish.’ 

Therefore, that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on and threw himself into the sea. But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land…dragging the net full of fish. 

John 21 is a chapter about Peter. As I read it, I was reminded of my life journey of failures and blessing. Similar to me in my young adulthood, Peter struggled with arrogance and made many bold claims that didn’t materialize. This chapter deals primarily with Peter and Jesus’ preparation of Peter to take a significant role of leadership after His ascension.   

Thus far, Jesus had appeared to the disciples twice after His resurrection. As we move in to the final chapter of John, we find the disciples at the Sea of Galilee. We’re not sure if Jesus told them to leave Jerusalem and go there or if they did it on their own accord. Either way, they have seen the risen Christ and they are encouraged. But they are still uncertain of their future and still plagued with doubts. 

It might had been several days or maybe more that they hadn’t seen Jesus. Peter was grappling with “what now”? How did Peter feel about the fact that less than 20 days ago, he denied knowing Jesus three times after multiple claims that he would follow Jesus anywhere? Even die with Him. His confidence was shaken, his boldness subdued and his doubt grew stronger. He had failed. What good was he now? 

He hadn’t seen or heard from Jesus for several days. So, he said ‘I am going fishing’. Peter had planned to be Jesus’ right-hand man in the Kingdom. He had failed and now he was going fishing. Maybe he felt like the 3-year journey with Jesus was over and he has to now make a living. Go fishing. Maybe He wanted to do something he was familiar with; something he was good at; something that made him feel he was in control. Catching some fish would be therapeutic for him. 

Lord, how many times have I done the same thing. Many times, I have struggled with my failures and felt disillusioned. I just want to escape! 

I can relate to Peter’s experience. By the time I graduated from college in 1981, I, very confidently, had a clear vision for my life. I was very confident, even arrogant regarding my vision and plan for my life. I was very confident but in reality, I wasn’t prepared for life as an adult, filled with unexpected twists and turns. Life is filled with both unexpected disappointments and failures blended with unexpected blessings. Sometimes, mind-blowing failures and sometimes, mind-blowing blessings. The story of my life is that I’ve had a lot of both. A lot of both! 

Another theme in the story of my life is that from the pinnacle of my arrogance at college graduation to where I am now, God has applied a steady and constant pattern of humbling me. A humbling process that spans a life from 22 years old until 60 years old is a long time. I have often told the Lord through the years, enough is enough. 

  • At age 22, I graduated from a Christian College with a BA in Pastoral Ministries. Just like in our present time, there were mega-churches and mega-Pastors back in 1981. I said to myself and to others, ‘If I’m not pastoring a mega-church and preaching weekly to thousands of people by the time I’m 30 years old, then I’ll consider myself a failure.’ (It pains me now to write such a horrible, arrogant statement such as this). Then I said, ‘but for now I’ll just do Youth Ministry.’
  • At age 26, I was asked to Pastor a church of about 700 people. For a variety of reasons, I had to say no. I never did become a Pastor of any church and certainly not of a mega-church.  
  • At age 28, I was working at a wholesale florist, six days a week, 60 hours a week. It was the only job I could find at the time to provide for my wife and two daughters. I vividly remember a day I was taking out the garbage, tossing up the garbage into the dumpster with slime dripping down my arm. I froze and said to myself, ‘what happened to me?’ I had one of those ‘slime dripping down your arm’ moments. Oh, how the arrogant one had fallen. Ok Lord. I get it. I understand what you’re doing, but enough humbling of me for now. Please!!!
  • A few months later, a youth ministry opportunity came my way, quite unexpectedly, that turned into a wonderful and joy-filled period in my life. 
  • I could go on and on with a repeating pattern of failures and disappointments followed by me saying to the Lord, ‘Ok already, I got it.’ Then, later I’d experience unexpected and often amazing blessings that are way beyond what I deserve.
  • Lather, rinse, repeat. 

Lord, every humbling experience I’ve had has proven to me your great love. These experiences have caused me to take my eyes off myself, and place them squarely on you. That’s where you want me and that’s where I want myself to be, as well. Your ways are good, Your path is straight and Your guiding hand is always with me. Praise be to You always and in all things. Amen!