Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. John 21:3 (NRSV)
We all have found ourselves desperately wanting to turn back the clock in order to retreat to a peaceful, contented, happy, time and place in life. Our desire is most urgent when we are challenged by troubling, disappointing, hurting circumstances and anxious, uncertain times that disrupt the usual patterns and rhythm of life.
This is what Peter did after the rollercoaster of the events of Good Friday and Resurrection. Burdened by guilt and shame for deserting Jesus, uncertainty, anxiousness, and fear, Peter retreated to the safe life and a time before he accepted Jesus’ invitation to follow. He went back to fishing with six other disciples, also eager to do anything to escape their circumstances.
But, Jesus was not content for Peter and the other disciples to live, trapped in the past. Jesus came to them where they were and showed them where to fish and fill their fishing nets to overflowing. Then after breakfast, Jesus looked Peter in the eye, asked him “Do you love me?” Then Jesus challenged Peter, “Feed my sheep.”
You may be wanting, as we all do at sometime in our lives, to retreat to another time and place to live because stress, disappointment, failure, loneliness, loss, illness, hurt, rejection, or lack of meaning, purpose, and direction seem unbearable. You may even be wondering if you have a future and if it is ever possible for you to move forward to claim it.
Stop wondering. Jesus has removed all doubt. In the same way Jesus restored Peter from his failings, called him back to the present life, and pointed him to the future, Jesus comes to us to do the same for us–to restore us by grace. Like Peter, we receive strength to pick up the broken pieces of his life. We are given sufficient grace for today and the courage to move forward into the future.
No matter how tempting it may be to sidestep our troubles by returning to a safe and happy place and time in the past, Jesus calls us to live in the present, to keep moving toward the future. Why? Because we can claim the grace of new opportunities, let it mold how we live, and allow it to shape us into the person God has created us to be.