Every week, I take a long walk at some new park I’ve never been to within a reasonable drive and I listen to a series of guided meditations.  The series that God has currently brought into my path focuses on the work that God did through a number of saints, like Patrick, in bringing the Gospel to Ireland.  After finishing each walk and meditation, I am challenged to write down notes and reflect on all that God is drawing to my attention.  While I am amazed at the details every week, today’s thoughts challenged me enough to want to share and perhaps they might resonate with you as well. 

As context, though, I should mention that the ‘Simon’ and ‘Brendan’ that I will mention are the parallel stories of Simon Peter in the Gospel of John, chapter 21, and the story of Saint Brendan of Ireland.

Brendan sought to follow the will of God in complete trust by leaving shore in the West of Ireland inside a small rudderless boat, expecting God to guide him via the waves and the wind, to his next opportunity to share the Gospel.  This action by Brendan denies the human tendency to fear the future and seek control at any cost. 

Likewise, when Simon Peter finished after hours of fishing with no reward and he heard some random man (whom we know to be the newly risen Jesus) call out to him to go back into the waters and recast the nets on the other side of his boat, Simon must have thought the man was crazy.  Simon was a professional fisherman!  If he knew anything, it was how to catch fish.  But he chose to trust this Stranger and do as He said.  And it’s a good thing he did, because upon drawing the nets up from the water, Simon Peter found that they could not lift the massive weight of all the fish in the net.

With both stories in mind, I wrote:

“Simon Peter and Brendan were being called to be fishers of people – the focus being God’s mission of loving and drawing those people in rather than either man’s misplaced priorities that might otherwise distract them from their purpose.  _____ remains as my misplaced priority.  Instead, I want to relax and watch the good that God will do despite my distractions.  There is beautiful truth on the other side of these idols (i.e. the much needed Kingship of Christ).  And just as I looked out on the pond and watched as the rain caused countless ripples on the surface of the water, so I find that God is still endlessly causing small ripples into the lives of us all to accomplish all that He has set out to do.”

“And that’s the point – like Brendan and Simon, I eventually look out into the ‘depths of the sea from the shore’ and ask if I’m ready to give up control.  I’ll need to push off from the comfort and stability I cling to in the flesh, stop living in fear, and notice that God is with me in that boat.  My hope is not set in the calm of being anchored to the shore, but in the North Star that guides me when I’m out of control on the waters.”

One last thought!  “The walk was mundane.  Through its entire length, there were none of what the signs indicated – active beavers, curious deer, or high-flying bats that I so hoped to come across.  Instead of the Instagrammable photo opps, the walk was about diligently pushing forward, with my hood partially blocking my view, all the while side-stepping massive mud puddles.  It was not all that I was hoping the walk to be, but it’s much like life.  We want excitement and adventure that is not always at the ready. We want beauty but are often times met with obstructed views and distractions like mud puddles that keep our eyes so focused on seeking stability, we forgot to look up.”

“This state of distraction led me down the wrong path to a dead-end with a pond on all sides of me but behind.  I had been carrying a rock the whole walk for this moment where I would ceremoniously drop it into the pond, feeling the release of a particular idol that I have been battling over and watch the rock disappear.  So I let it go, watching it slip away into the murky depths and I felt… nothing.  None of the closure I was hoping for.  I just looked up and noticed the rain was picking up and I ran.  I bolted back down the wrong path that I had taken, took the correct turn and ran all the way to my car (which I’m not accustomed to doing anymore).  Once I made it into the car, I realized that my heart just wasn’t into the ceremony at the end of the walk.  Instead, it was set on the gladness of the promise of warmth and rest.  I had made an idol of releasing my idol.  God was reminding me that, at the end of my life, seeing the face of Jesus, hearing His voice, experiencing His laugh as I feel Him embrace me like I do with my own kids means far more than these distractions that I set my heart on.  My burdens won’t go away with even the most deliberate activity.  They shrink away in the presence of my God whose majesty makes all my problems seem insignificant.”

Love you all,

Young Adult Minister – Evan McNeff

Listening on the Lonely Trails

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