It’s Monday morning…For many, it’s the hardest time of the week–especially after an extended weekend. Perhaps this will help you approach today from a different perspective. What is God doing today? He’s not upset that it’s Monday, but rather He’s excited for all that He has planned. The first chapter in my new book speaks to this topic.
The following is the first chapter of my new book, “Deep Waters: God’s Invitation To Go Deeper.” If you haven’t read the introduction, start here.
What You Can’t See
I’m writing this on a Saturday night. I think I have a fairly good idea what tomorrow will hold. I’ll wake up early, pray, eat a bagel, kiss my wife, go to church and serve as a pastor, come home and eat a sandwich, rest, play with my daughters, go back to church for the evening service, and finish the day watching ESPN. It should be a good day: the status quo for Sunday.
Why do I make this mistake and think I know exactly what tomorrow will hold? It’s almost as if I live life on cruise control at times, assuming today or tomorrow will look like yesterday and the day before. The more I talk to people, the more I realize I’m not alone in making this assumption. Don’t we all kind of have a feeling of what today will be like? What about Monday? We wake up with a sigh and think, God, help me get through this day. Saturday morning? You probably don’t wake up with a groan, but I’m sure you have a fairly good idea of what you think the day will hold. We are creatures that like to settle into routines—nice, comfortable, safe routines.
While effective planning and establishing routine are good things, we must not allow ourselves to lose an eager expectation for God to surprise us, to break in and fully have His way each and every day. What if we would wake up in the morning, and instead of immediately thinking of all that needs to be accomplished, surrender ourselves completely to the story God is telling? What if we approached each day as a blank canvas in the hands of a brilliant artist? (The extravagant sunsets in the western sky provide continual evidence of God’s artistic ability.) I’ve learned over the years that God is a masterful storyteller, and He’s telling a story through each of our lives.
My favorite aspect of counseling is listening to a person’s story. Everyone has a unique story, but we live in a culture where we rarely pause to view our lives through this lens. We’re too busy. We have too much to do. All we often have time for is to casually ask, “How are you doing?” The other person will predictably say, “Good. How are you?” The entire exchange lasts less than two seconds, and it’s painfully awkward.
Meanwhile, as we hurry along, God taps us on the shoulder and whispers, “I have more for your life. Are you willing to live my story?” My heart speeds up a few ticks as I ponder the invitation in a fresh way. Even after being a Christ follower for decades, I still get nervous about not knowing the details of this grand story. At the same time, I’m intrigued. The mysteriousness of God as Author causes me to lean in. Don’t we enjoy a movie more when we don’t know the ending? We’re rarely on the edge of our seat if we know precisely what is about to happen on screen.
How much more should we be on the edge of the seat with our own story? What is God going to do next in and through you? We are talking about the Author who starts the story by breathing the galaxies into existence. His creativity and ability to do the unthinkable is indescribable—even on Mondays.
So, why aren’t our lives more exciting and fulfilling? Perhaps it’s because the tap on the shoulder has been overlooked because the world is shoving us along. God’s whisper has been drowned out by the demands of the day. Or maybe we are simply too comfortable on the beach—or in the stands—watching other people live great stories.
The Courage to Participate
I’ve never met him, but I can’t help but admire Lionel Rodia. He is a middle-aged man from Philadelphia who is a die-hard Phillies, 76ers, and Eagles fan. He also possesses an uncanny ability to maneuver his way into prestigious sporting events—like the way he got into Super Bowl XXI without a ticket. Once in, he slowly but surely laid claim to some of the best unused seats in the house.
His crowning achievement occurred during game five of the 2008 World Series. He initially found himself sitting near the left field foul pole, but it wasn’t long before he made his way to the Diamond Club section and enjoyed the rest of the game two rows up from home plate.
As good as his new seats were, he wasn’t satisfied remaining in the stands. When it became evident the Phillies were going to win the game, thus clinching their World Series title, Lionel began plotting a way to join the players in celebration. When the time was right, he stood up and followed an important looking man into a special back room where he found himself in the company of Bud Selig, several other men in suits, and the World Series trophy. Lionel then fell in line and followed them onto the field where people continued to assume he was somebody affiliated with the team. They gave him a championship shirt and even placed a lei around his neck while he high-fived players.
As the Phillies transitioned their celebration from the pitcher’s mound to the champagne-stocked locker room, Lionel decided to go with them. He spent the next several minutes in fan heaven, spraying champagne into the air and celebrating with his beloved heroes. He flew under the radar the entire time, except for when his buddy saw him on television in the locker room and asked, “Is that Lionel?”
While I understand some of his actions may be questionable, I actually admire his boldness and courage. Lionel wasn’t content simply watching the celebration; he wanted to taste it for himself. He risked being dragged off the field by his underwear strap just so he could participate rather than watch from a distance.
Isn’t it easy to feel like a spectator in life, like we’re on the outside looking in? We watch our heroes live out the dreams that reside within our hearts; meanwhile, we remain firmly planted in the hard, uncomfortable bleachers.
I think we could all benefit from a little more of Lionel’s mentality. How different would our lives be if we possessed the courage to put down the peanuts, squeeze our way past all the other spectators, and make our way to the field? I think we would be speechless after discovering the depth of adventure and joy waiting for us.
The difference between Lionel’s story and ours is that we don’t have to sneak into the action. The one who holds the oceans in the palm of His hand motions for us. He has created us to live a grand story. Our lives ooze destiny and purpose. God is inviting us to experience the life we were created to live!
But, do I really have to leave the peanuts behind? They cost five bucks and I’m thoroughly enjoying them! I have to wonder if this is what it looks like when we refuse to respond to God’s call. God has a feast waiting, but we forfeit our seat at the table because we don’t think we can give up the peanuts.
Isn’t it challenging to give up what we can see for something yet to be seen? And yet Scripture is full of stories and scenarios where people were asked to make this very decision. Simon Peter is a good example.
Into Deep Water
In the fifth chapter of Luke, Simon Peter came face to face with the question: Is it worth it to give up what I can see for something yet to be seen? We often zip through these stories in our daily reading plans, but if we slow down and put ourselves in Simon Peter’s shoes, we can feel the weight of the decision.
I picture him standing on the shore, sweat dripping off his nose, working diligently to clean his nets. Perhaps he was in a relatively foul mood as he had just spent the night on the water without catching a single fish. Fishing was his livelihood, the way he fed his family. Was he discouraged? Frustrated? Exhausted? Did he have any idea that the Author of his story was about to flip his world upside down?
God was about to tap Peter on the shoulder. Actually, He does him one better and asks to borrow his fishing boat so He can address the massive crowd. You know the feeling, right? You’re about to head out the door after a long day, and then you run into someone who needs help. Does your heart leap for joy at the opportunity to serve, or do you just want to get home to your family? Simon Peter could have offered up a few excuses, but for whatever reason, he crawled back in the boat and pushed off from shore with Jesus.
After Jesus finished addressing the crowd from the boat, He turned and made a provocative statement: Put out into the deep water, and let down your nets for a catch (Luke 5:4, NASB).
Deep water? Let the nets down again? I can hear the internal sigh from here. This was going to require some time and work for Simon Peter. It may have started as a cordial favor, but it was becoming evident that Jesus was after far more than a floating pulpit—He was looking for a life to invade.
I wonder what would have happened to Simon Peter if he would have said no. What if, for a variety of seemingly logical reasons, Simon Peter would have refused to set sail for deep water? Without knowing it, he would have turned down the single greatest invitation of his life.
We don’t know the answer to the question because he responded in a beautiful manner. In verse five, Peter said: Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets (Luke 5:5, NASB).
Perhaps all of heaven applauded his response. His life—and the lives of countless others who would be impacted by his future ministry—were about to be forever changed because he was willing to follow Jesus into the deep.
When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink (Luke 5:6-7, NIV).
Put yourself in the rickety fishing boat for a moment. Simon Peter is whooping and hollering from the sheer joy of the multitude of fish. Then, his hollering voice starts sounding a higher pitch as he realizes they’re sinking. What was Jesus doing during all the excitement? We know the Creator of all things wasn’t the least bit scared as water poured into the boat, so I picture Him smiling at the catch of fish. And what did He say to Simon Peter when the first tug on the nets occurred? I doubt He said, “I told you so!” Maybe He just winked.
Nonetheless, Simon Peter falls at His feet and says, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” Little did he know, but Jesus doesn’t require us to be perfect before we agree to follow Him. The invitation has always been to come as you are. Jesus demonstrates this truth by saying, Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people (Luke 5:10, NIV).
As miraculous as the previous five minutes had been, Simon Peter still had a decision to make. Was he willing to allow Jesus to not only interrupt his day, but his entire life? What about the seven year plan he had carefully concocted? What about his dreams of a fishing show on ESPN? What about collecting on the mountain of fish he and his friends had just landed?
So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him (Luke 5:11, NIV).
Loosening the White-Knuckled Grip
Simon Peter successfully left the fish behind, but my three-year-old daughter, Avery, found it to be a little more difficult. Ashley and I took her to the Denver Aquarium, and while I planned on being the teacher, I ended up being the student. As soon as we walked in, Avery’s eyes locked onto a small little aquarium that was located at the front entrance. The fish were small—actually tiny—but she was still fascinated by the sight of an aquarium full of bubbles and fish. I thought to myself, If she thinks these puny little fish are cool, wait until she sees the good stuff, like the sharks!
We stood by the small fish for a few more minutes before I started prompting Avery to move along. She wasn’t budging. She had no idea what was around the corner, she just knew that what she was looking at was pretty cool. I began pleading with her, “Avery, you have to trust me on this. Follow me and I’ll show you something much better.”
I eventually had to pry her away from the tank, and I spent the next few moments calming her disappointment by assuring her there were much better displays ahead. Avery was struggling to leave what she could see for something yet to be seen. As her father, I knew she would enjoy the deeper water of the shark tank more than the miniature tank, but getting a three-year-old to trust you can be challenging.
In that moment I caught a glimpse of what God experiences as He invites us to follow Him around the corner and into the unknown. It’s unknown to us, but it’s certainly not a mystery to Him. As our Father, He understands that better things are ahead, but getting us to trust Him can also be challenging.
As humans, we typically think in terms of, What will this cost me? What will I have to give up? We’re quite aware of what we hold in our hands, but are we ignorant of what God holds in His? We maintain a white-knuckled grip on trivial things while God urges us to let go and experience something far better.
Before we continue on the journey, I want to encourage you to stop and ponder the following questions: Are you experiencing all that God has for your life? Is there more? Are there aspects of your life where you are sitting in the stands rather than participating in the story of God? Lastly, are you willing to set sail for deeper water in your relationship with God? If so, I believe the rest of the book will be a surprising adventure for you. God has been waiting patiently for this opportunity. He is excited, and He is telling you not to be afraid.
As for Avery, she finally decided she was ready to move along. She galloped around the corner and then stopped in her tracks. Her eyes brightened and her mouth opened as she saw the sharks for the first time. As for me, I couldn’t resist. I had to say it:
“I told you so.”