Mountain Top Moments and Jesus Holes
By Kerry Connelly
I confess to being stuck in the ho-hum of life. Things are not easy, and while most of my problems are privileged, they weigh heavily on me (along with the guilt of having privilege problems). I am dealing with things like thousands of dollars of emergency home repairs just when we thought we were getting ahead. I am dealing with a slowdown in my business that is not only a little scary, but also leaves me bored. I am waiting for a miracle that hasn’t shown up yet (specifically, how I’m going to pay for school). And my parents are aging quickly, and their care is getting more intricate, more daily, and yes, more expensive.
I am bothered by the American life of too much — too much clutter, too much stuff, too much on my calendar. Parents’ schedules, kids schedules, my schedules, husband’s schedules. All the things. The details that swirl around in my brain like debris picked up by a tornado. The mind chaos that keeps me up at night.
You’d think I’d be over this by now, especially because I wrote a book about it (it’ll be available in September). That may seem like a shameless plug (okay, it probably is a shameless plug, but I didn’t mean it to be) but it’s also a confession and a prayer. It’s funny, because when I complain about this to my mastermind group — a group of beautiful, caring women who keep me accountable in my business and life in general — they remind me: Hey, weren’t you the one who wrote a book about PAUSE — you know, stopping for a hot second and letting God do God’s thing?
I hate when people use my own smarts against me, the few times I actually am smart.
It all gets so exhausting, that I can, for the first time ever, understand why when I was 15 and said to my 85 year old grandmother that I wanted her to live to be 100, she curled her lips back and said, “Dear God who would want to live THAT long?!” At the time I was horrified. Now I’m starting to get it.
I think this can be especially true for Christians. After all, we get these beautiful mountaintop moments, when the Holy Spirit seems so real, we can practically feel the sacred breath on our necks. We experience Jesus in everything — the music we hear, the flowers we see, the eyes of our children. We have these moments when we feel as if Jesus is as real as he was on the seashore with the disciples, cooking fish.
But then, he’s gone. Sometimes it’s a slow fade, and others it’s just poof, and we’re left all alone, wondering what happened, and life goes back to being ridiculously boring again. And the problem here is the a space that was once filled with Jesus, when empty, is a more painful, gaping empty than any other.
I’m going fishing.
I thought of all this when I read the last two chapters of the Gospel of John this morning. The disciples had really been through an emotional wringer. Here they’d left their families and their businesses. They probably lost a good amount of friends along the way. They’d puzzled and postured and wondered at Jesus and battled with Pharisees and other difficult people. Some of them may have cut off somebody’s ear, all out of loyal devotion to Jesus.
Then, they’d experienced the deepest grief when their Rabbi died on the cross. But it wasn’t just the grief over his physical death — although that, I’m sure, was a deep cut. It was also the grief over their hopes and dreams for the future. They’d made a plan in their heads. They thought they knew what to expect. They’d believe Jesus when he said a new kingdom was coming. But then he died — and all their hope died with him.
But wait! Like an infomercial, there’s more. Jesus was resurrected — there he was, alive and walking around, telling them to poke him in his newly acquired holes, cooking them fish for breakfast. I mean, just how many emotional ups and downs can a group of ragtag misfits take? At some point, after you have cried the deepest tears that have turned to that full on kind of belly laugh — at some point you just go numb.
As I was reading the first paragraph of John 21, I had an image of the disciples just being talked out. They were gathered by the Sea of Galilee. Jesus was gone now — really gone. My guess is, if they’re anything like me and my friends, they’d sat around to all hours talking about everything that happened, exploring every angle, trying to figure out their next move. Probably wine was involved. But now, they were done. Empty. Jesus had left — poof. And now, it was back to everyday, ho-hum life.
Forget about a mountain top moment. There wasn’t even a mountain to climb anymore.
I'm going fishing.
“I’m going fishing,” Peter said, and as I read, I suddenly got hit with the emptiness in the words, the flat desperation that’s lost its razor sharp edge for overuse. After three years of mountaintop experiences, after being in the presence of Jesus for so many beautiful months, Peter must have felt a special kind of empty. I imagine that, much like many of us, the prospect of going back to his everyday life seemed grey and dull after the colorful, gorgeous way of doing life with Jesus.
And to top it all off, the fishing that day sucked.
Oh, boy, have I been there. The days the words don’t come. Or the clients don’t come. Or the whatever you prayed for doesn’t come. And you sit there, remembering the mountaintop, and you start thinking, “Maybe I just imagined all that.” Or “Maybe I misunderstood that.” Or worse of all, “Maybe Jesus just doesn’t love me like I thought. Because look, if Jesus loved me, the fishing wouldn’t suck.”
I picture Peter rowing back to shore, muttering under his breath, maybe kicking something and stubbing his own damn toe. It’s exactly the kind of thing Peter would do. Takes one to know one.
But then, Jesus.
Jesus was on the beach, and he had some plans. A few tricks up his sleeves. A few fish in his pocket and a few redemptions to make. So, in typical weird Jesus style, he decided to make some fish for breakfast. Equally weird, the disciples didn’t recognize him — at least not until he told them to cast their net again, and it came up abundantly full.
And what did Jesus want from them that day? Communion. He wanted to eat with them. He wanted to restore Peter — three times, once for each time Peter had denied him. But first, he made their nets full.
It made me think — because I have very much been in a Peter-like mood lately, kicking things and stubbing my toe — that maybe Jesus is standing there waving at me, and I’m just not recognizing him. Maybe I’m so busy focusing on my empty net that I’m missing the huge school of fish just on the other side of my boat. Worst of all, maybe for all my distraction, I’m missing the chance to hang out with Jesus.
I believe that Jesus wants to fill my nets. But I also think that most of all, Jesus just wants to have breakfast together. Maybe a cup of nice coffee and an omelette and some good conversation. The next time I’m floating around on an ocean in my empty boat, stubbing my toe and kicking things, I’ll try to remember that.