into the deep
“Lent is an invitation to all of us to ‘put out into the deep’,” Sr. Sarah said on Ash Wednesday as we were discussing my Lenten resolutions. I had mentioned the Sunday Gospel reading from a few weeks before that I found quite challenging.
I had been struck by Jesus’ words in Luke’s gospel which, though directed to Simon, seemed to be intended for me as well. “Cast your nets to the other side and put out into the deep,” He said. I could imagine Simon’s frustration after having spent all night doing exactly that with nothing to show for it. As the Lord offered me the same opportunity to ‘put out into the deep’, I did not respond so well as Peter. My first reaction was “Humph! Are you kidding me? What do you think I’ve been doing all this time? I’m the one who knows the waters and there is nothing – I repeat – nothing there!”
I did eventually follow Simon Peter’s example and cast my nets to the other side, with Sr. Sarah encouraging me as I did so. I had no idea what sort of “catch” to expect. After all, it’s not like I was actually fishing for real fish, and anything could have been lurking in the “deep” (cue eerie music). I knew what I had been “fishing” for and what I was beginning to doubt existed, but Sr. Sarah wisely reminded me to allow God to surprise me. “Lent is an opportunity to encounter Christ in ways of His choosing, not yours,” she said. “Remember too that because of this encounter with Christ, Peter realized there was more to life than the catch of a lifetime. He left his cherished prize without hesitation. When you put out into the deep, have faith that you will catch something and be open to whatever you find.”
Well, I was surprised – surprised because I had forgotten my resolve to “put out into the deep” every day of Lent until I reviewed my notes last week. I hadn’t forgotten all of my Lenten disciplines, just this one, or so I thought.
The more I reflected on the physical, emotional and mental trials of Lent, I realized that I had cast my nets out and they were full! It was not the catch of a lifetime, nor was it what I would have expected. The Lord drudged up all sorts of stuff from the past that had been dwelling in the recesses of my soul. Throughout Lent, I found myself addressing a plethora of previously ignored hurts and wounds and thinking “Where on earth did this come from?!”
It was an extremely difficult Lent, but I would imagine Simon Peter struggled with his catch, too, as he labored to bring the fish ashore. Like Peter, I have realized there is more to life than what I hauled up in my net. I have found much needed healing and am grateful that I will soon be bathing in the joys of Easter instead of sifting through my Lenten catch.