There’s a story in the Gospel of John where, after the tumultuous weekend of Jesus’ death and Resurrection, Peter says, “I’m going fishing.” (Read John 21:1ff.)
Peter goofed up enough that he is an easy target. So I wonder, given all that had happened, if some have looked at his behavior in this passage and found some deficiency in his actions.
But maybe he just wanted to think.
Peter had a lot to think about. It had been a whirlwind couple of days. Jesus had been in the garden praying, asking Peter, James, and John to stay awake. Peter falls asleep. Jesus is arrested. Peter cuts off some guy’s ear. Jesus goes on trial. Peter denies knowing Jesus. Then Jesus rises from the dead. Peter doesn’t really know what’s going on.
It makes me wonder if fishing was a distant second to a desire to a get away and ponder what a had happened and what it meant. I’ll have to ask him someday, but it seems like a strong possibility.
Of course we think all the time, in the sense that we have thoughts running through our minds no matter what we are doing. Some advocate the practice of emptying our minds, but I honestly can’t imagine an empty mind. It’s kind of like a few years ago when I bought a Pilates video. For beginners. The instructor said something like “Now wrap your leg around your head and stick your other leg straight out to the side.” I said – aloud – “I can’t do that!” Same thing with emptying my mind. God didn’t create us to put our minds into park.
Peter had much to mull over. And so do you. Granted, what you have on your mind may not be as history-changing as the events of the Passion Week and the Resurrection appearances. But there are still times when “going fishing” is not only important. It’s essential.
The problem is that we live in a busy culture. In fact, the busier we are, the more important we appear. So finding time to think about the Elders meeting that’s coming (or that took place last night), the woman who just told you she has cancer, or the overall needs of your congregation is not easy. But you need to find it.
Some of us fill our weeks too full. We have so many commitments that there’s no room for finding time to just think. It costs to much in light of the length of our to-do list. But it will cost more if you don’t make time to get alone, get quiet, turn off the ringer on your phone, and just think.
Take a walk. If you don’t want people from the church seeing you “doing nothing,” go somewhere where they aren’t likely to be. Go to a coffee shop. If your home is a quiet environment, go home. People who would criticize a pastor for making time to think don’t get it anyway, so just do what you have to do to make time to think, cogitate, contemplate.
I’m assuming that’s what Peter was doing. Standing in his boat feeling the familiarity of it rocking with the waves had to be a place of refuge for Peter. And despite his usual impetuous spirit, his fishing excursion seems to be what he needs in order to wrap his head around what Jesus has done and is doing.
Tell me: are your needs any different than Peter’s?