Sunday the gospel was about Jesus instructing the disciples to put out to the deep water to catch fish. Simon protested, “We already tried that and it didn't work,”–the phrase that kills all dreams from catching fish to building ranches–but then recovered and said in essence, “But if you say so, we'll give it another go.”
The rest is history: loads of fish, so many other boats had to be called in to help out. They had to put out to where the fish were to catch them.
But the point of this story isn't the fish, according to Fr. Larry. The point is Simon's obedience to Jesus' intructions, after which Jesus tells the guys they are to become “fishers of men.”
The lesson applies to any great undertaking, at the outset of which three things are required:: 1) You must go into the deep waters, 2) You trust that God knows better than you and when He tells you to do something, do it, no matter how cockamamie it sounds, yes, even if you've “already tried that and it didn't work,” and 3) You must expect to “catch fish.”
“Jesus can liberate us from the bondage of our certainties,” said Fr. Larry. Twice.
It's been a while since I posted. I lapsed into a funk in mid-January and started muttering things like, “The first days after diagnosis, with the surgery and the path reports and the marshalling of friends and family–that was the invasion of Normandy, but I have a feeling from here on out it's trench warfare.” The weather was cold and dank, day after day, which didn't help.
Go into deep water.
I was spending a fair amount of time riding my pity pot when I went to pray a little over a week ago, pretty much stripped of any illusions and brave talk of my “vision quest with cancer.” I realized in fact that I was approaching God like a two-year-old about to have a tantrum.
“I feel rotten! I don't like the weather! Nobody understands what I'm going through! Make me feel better! Now! Waaaaaa!”
Actually, I was embarrassed. I was supposed to be praising God, thanking Him for my considerable blessings, and commending others into His care, and here I was all eaten up with the gimmees. And God did an amazing thing.
“Yes,” He said. “Exactly right. Come to me like a child, like a little child, who expects Me to listen, to understand, and to heal.” (He didn't say anything about the weather.)
Who trusts more than a toddler reaching his little arms up for Daddy to enfold him?
Expect to catch fish.
As I prayed, I suddenly remembered a book a good friend got me at the outset of my illness. The title is The Anti-Cancer Diet by David Servan-Schreiber, an M.D., psychiatrist, cancer patient, and researcher. I found it and started reading.
The first half of the book is on nutrition and how to maximize your body's disease-fighting capacity and ability. It is scientifically sound, doesn't make outrageous promises, and seems reasonable, so I took notes and resolved to implement his suggestions and double up on my efforts to eat well.
But the second half was the kicker, and the main message I needed to hear. It's on meditation and learning the live–really live–your life. With cancer, without cancer, healed, dying, and everything in between. A lot of it is about breathing and the importance of it.
Sound stupid? It's not. My anxiety causes me to hunker down and literally hold my breath. I don't realize I'm doing it. My blood pressure soars, I feel panicky, I don't read my body's simple request for oxygen.
The ghastly truth is that I know the importance of meditation, or centering prayer. I know its frustrations (suddenly finding myself creating grocery lists five minutes after beginning…) and its joys (truly life-enriching).
I just don't do it.
Later that day I was playing with my little dog Jenny. She loves to select a stuffed animal toy from her basket and we wrestle over it and she runs around the house going “cracker dog.” Suddenly she spied a large rib bone she'd found on a walk and especially treasures. She picked it up and the game stopped. I tossed “evil raccoon” at her and she clearly wanted to play, but she didn't want to put the bone down.
As I watched her grapple with this puzzling dilemma I thought, This is a teaching moment, and the lesson is that to pick up something new, you've got to let go of something.
And what I need to let go of–yet again–is my insistence that I can't experience joy until everything is just right. I had fallen into that trap: I'll be happy when this is over. I'll do this or that when this is over.
This may never be over, and life can only be lived in the moment or not at all.
Thanks be to God.