Sunday, May 20, 2012

Plenty of Fish in the Sea

People really like their metaphors. Seriously. We hardly ever say something just how it is. We would much rather tie in an image of something else to help us illustrate our point. Our entire language is saturated with metaphors. Cute as a button. It's raining cats and dogs! He's my knight in shining armor *sigh*. Life's a stage and we are the actors (maybe we've been watching too much "reality" TV?). It's a dog-eat-dog world (seriously, do we ever think about how gross this is?). Running like the wind (or in my case a weak breeze). Catch my drift? (<= Hey, whaddaya know, there's another one!)

Don't think that umbrella will help much...

One that we seem to have a particular affinity for is the image of fishing. I don't know how many times I've heard "there are other fish in the sea..."Or what about the phrase, "fishing for compliments?" I especially like the one "hook, line, and sinker." Even Katy Perry is all about the fishing metaphors (The One That Got Away).

When I think about all of the metaphors, I think of what my writing professor would have to say about them, "CLICHÉS. Don't use them. Come up with something cool and original." But how did these phrases become cliché in the first place? Somebody said them once, and everybody else was all like, "Yeah! That's great! I'm going to use that now," and it spread like wildfire. (<= metaphor. Or simile?) Now, I don't know where most of our clichés derived from, but I have a guess as to who may have started the whole fishing craze. Yeah, that's right, the big JC, Jesus Christ. I mean, He was the one who dropped a bomb saying, "Follow Me and become fishers of men." And how could people NOT think that that was an awesome metaphor?

"I used that metaphor BEFORE it was cliché."
Let's look at what that actually means. Back in the day, fishing wasn't just a relaxing way to pass the weekend off with your buds out on the lake, having a good ol' time and hangin' out. For those called out of their boats to follow Jesus, it was completely different. They were fishermen. Fishing was their career.

According to Luke's gospel, Simon was the first to be called to follow. He was cleaning out his nets one morning after a rather unsuccessful night of fishing. Now, here in this world today, cleaning out nets after a night of fishing doesn't really hold much significance. First of all, I would just like to point out that he had been fishing all NIGHT. Because that's what they did back then. The nets that they used for fishing were pretty visible in the water during the day, and all Galilean fishermen knew that fishing during the day was just straight up foolish. Cleaning his nets didn't just mean splashing them with water. The linen nets used back then were pretty fragile. They required both washing and complete drying, which was quite time consuming. Since he had been out all night, he was just waiting for his nets to be clean and dry before he could go home and finally hit the sack. To top it off, he didn't have much to show for his night of work.

As he was cleaning, he probably noticed a crowd gathering on the shore listening to a rabbi preach. He may or may not have noticed it growing in size--so much so that the man speaking couldn't see all of the people around him. Whether or not Simon was interested in what this man had to say, he was undoubtably tired and rather unconcerned about this mass of people, just wanting to go home. He was probably finishing of the tedious task of cleaning, when Jesus walks up to him and is all like, "Hey man, I see your boat all tied up here, and it is in just the right spot. Mind if I preach from up here so I can see my whole audience?" Simon, respecting the authority of the rabbi consented, but I'm sure he was not too happy about it. That meant he would have to stay in the boat until the man was done speaking. And of all boats on the shore, couldn't he have found a different one?

Jesus continues to preach on Simon's boat, and finished with the cleaning, Simon can't help but listen as the nets dry. Wow, this guy really sounds like he knows what he's talking about. Jesus finally ends his speech for the morning, and as people began to talk amongst themselves and clear out, Jesus looks at Simon and, noticing there aren't many fish in the load from the previous night, says something like "Thanks for letting me use your boat. Kind of an unsuccessful night last night, huh? Here, take your boat back out and throw the net over again."

At this point, Simon must have been incredulous. You want me to take my net that is practically dry, go out into the deep water, even after the sun is up, and cast it into the water again?! You are a rabbi, not a fisherman. Do you even know the slightest thing about fishing?! Even with your help, I would need two more of my friends to help us out. That kind of job requires two boats and four men. Do you WANT me to look like a complete idiot?! Maybe it was his preaching, maybe it was the people on shore watching what would happen, maybe he just wanted to prove Jesus wrong, but something told him he should listen to to this rabbi, and he grudgingly consented to this seemingly daft endeavor. He called over his partners James and John (who no doubt were questioning Simon's sanity) and threw the now dry net into the water. All three men were utterly amazed at what happened next: they caught enough fish to fill both boats to the point of nearly sinking! In broad daylight! It was truly nothing short of a miracle.

"Just keep swimming!"

Simon fell to his knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man," (Luke 5:8), for he was ashamed that he had doubted this man. With that, Jesus just looked at the men in the boats and said, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men."


Now do you see why that metaphor rocks? It wasn't like some random guy walked up to the apostles and was like, "Hey, drop your jobs, your family, your lifestyle, and come follow me and you'll catch lot's of men." No. He proved himself through this amazing miracle and said "Through Me, you can do this again, only next time, you will bring in people, not fish. If you follow me, you can become the world's greatest evangelists, bringing people to God." How do you say no to that?!

The best part is, just think, if Simon (later Peter) had not listened to Jesus to cast out his net once more, if he had decided it wasn't worth the effort, if he had put his own interests (going home, not cleaning the net again, etc.) above listening to Jesus, we wouldn't have Peter, the great apostle and first pope. He became who he was all because he decided to first of all let Jesus preach from his boat (he could have very easily turned Him down), and secondly he risked his own reputation and pride to throw that net in the water just one more time.

So, all metaphors aside, next time God asks you to do something that you don't necessarily see as a good idea, logically speaking, like Nike, just do it. You never know what big plans God has in store for you. He might just be setting you too up to become one of the greatest fishers of men.

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