Luke 5:4 -- When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.
I often say that we tend to react habitually to situations and circumstances: we react with anger, or fear, or calm...whatever is our habit. “I always get mad when that happens.” “It really bugs me when such and such happens.” “I always put off doing things.” “I never remember....” “I always lose something…”
We have a set of beliefs about ourselves, instructions that we have lived with for so long that we have come to believe that is who we are and how we are to behave. That is what we consider to be our typical self. When someone looks at us responding in our usual fashion, they would nod their heads knowingly and tell us that is ‘you’. We are behaving predictably, although superficially.
But God tells us something different. In Jeremiah 31:33 we are told: But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
God said that He has placed His instructions deep within us and has written them on our hearts. So, when we move away from our shallow preconceived beliefs, from our thoughts about who we think we are, and move deep into our hearts, we find God’s instructions there; and they are different from the instructions we give ourselves.
Our common self is a lot like everyone else’s common self. We traditionally react to change with fear and anxiety and respond to an insult with anger or hurt. We usually return a hurt for a hurt and react to inconvenience with impatience. These are all regular human responses and patterns and, within reason, people expect and accept these reactions.
Yet sometimes we exhibit a different reaction. Sometimes, we find that deep place of awareness where God has written His instructions. Occasionally, we move from our heads to our hearts, and we implement these new instructions; and when we do, a new ‘me’ appears, a higher ‘me’. It is uncharacteristic of our past behaviors; it is remarkable to us and memorable.
In Luke Chapter 5 we read of a fishing incident. Simon, John, and James had been fishing without success. After speaking to a crowd, Jesus climbed onto the boat and said, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon did as he was instructed and caught so many fish the boat almost capsized.
It is easy and familiar to fish in the shallows, where it is the standard and popular thing to do. Most people are fishing there; it is safe and accepted. After all, this is where you are supposed to fish. People won’t criticize you for not catching anything in these waters, because they didn’t catch much either. Nobody does, and people understand.
Yet Jesus gave the fishermen a new set of instructions ... to go out into the deep; to look where most people would not dare look, to do what most people would not do. He was teaching that to reap the greatest harvest, we must risk the greatest criticism, take the greatest chance, overcome our greatest resistance, and express our greatest self. God is urging us to abandon the lowest ‘us,’ the common ‘us,’ and trust in the highest ‘us.’
To make the greatest impact, we must go deep into our thinking and feelings and find the inner instructions, purpose, and messages. We must go deep into prayer, proceeding fearlessly into the depths of Stillness and Silence and God’s presence.
It is uncommon to share opinions based upon reflection and consideration. It is easy and shallow to spout talking points about a subject that we have learned by listening to and watching others, but never analyzing ourselves. To accept an opinion about a person, place, thing, situation, or characteristic without thoughtful analysis is shallow. More than that, it is the birthplace of ignorance, intolerance, bigotry, and hatred.
I used to believe that toilet seats were filthy, germ-ridden surfaces. The fact is that a study conducted by the University of Arizona revealed that they are relatively uncontaminated since they are often disinfected and cleaned. This study showed that a toilet seat had 10 times fewer germs than cell phones. But it is a common and popularly held belief perpetuated by protective moms and dads.
I used to believe that the earth revolved around the sun. That’s what I learned in school. But now we know that technically, the earth, sun, and all the other planets revolve around one specific point: the barycenter, the center of mass of every object in the solar system combined, which constantly changes as the orbits of the planets change. Sometimes its smack in the middle of the sun, sometimes it is just outside the sun’s orbit. This is why some stars wobble. The point is this: a deep exploration of something or someone takes willing effort and results in a deeper knowledge that often conflicts with our old beliefs.
There are many things we take as facts, which in fact, are not true. We do not lose most of our body heat through our heads. Cracking knuckles does not lead to arthritis. Alcohol warms you up – nope. Caffeine dehydrates you. Naw. Coffee comes from beans. Not really, it comes from a seed inside the coffee fruit. And no, coffee does not stunt your growth. A coin thrown from the Empire State building would sting if it hit you but would not be a fatal skull crushing event. Einstein did not flunk math in school; at 5’7”, Napoleon was not all that short. Shaving does not make the hair grow back thicker. Humans have more than five senses. According to some neuroscientists there are 15 more, including: nociception – the ability to feel pain; chronoception – the ability to feel time passing; and equilibrioception – the sense of balance.
And there are more ‘easy to believe’ falsities: Sugar is not as addicting as heroin, twinkies do not last forever, maybe 45 days. The Great Wall of China cannot be seen from space. Walt Disney’s body is not cryogenically frozen; he was cremated. But we hear these things and without thought they become a part of our belief system despite being fallacious.
And while I’m on a roll, swimming is not at all dangerous right after eating; drinking from a hose will not kill you; there is no waiting period for filling out a missing person report; tossing in a pinch of salt does not make the water boil faster. Wet hair does not give you a cold; black holes are not the planet devouring monstrosities they are made out to be in sci-fi movies. Swallowed gum does not sinisterly sit in our gut for seven years; it is eliminated naturally within days, if not hours. Bagpipes are not Scottish, but probably of Turkish or Egyptian origin. Scholars believe bagpipes reached Britain via the conquering Romans. And to finish, no, thank You God, we do not swallow on average eight spiders per year in our sleep.
Listening to common opinions, folklore, and merely the loudest voice in the room is shallow, easy, and thoughtless; it requires little effort. As does only caring about someone’s looks, or how much money they have, or what kind of car they drive. This does not tell us about the person, what they think, or their moral compass. We need to spend time with someone and go deep into who they are before we can truly know them. We need to examine a situation or conflict from all sides and perspectives before we can understand what needs to be done and find a solution.
As Jesus pointed out, an eye for an eye just doesn’t cut it; shallow rhetoric and platitudes are insufficient as the basis for an informed opinion. Most of our common reactions can develop into new reactions through the depth of thought and contemplation. This is what can transform us from the usual to the rare individual.
It is unusual to meet disaster with a calm knowing that God is present. It is uncommon to react to insult with love, or to chaos with peace. It is unconventional to speak positively about ourselves and others, or to take the time to help someone in need. We think it quirky to believe that our unique talents and personalities are meant to bring good to people, to help others. Like the fish the disciples caught and brought back to the shore, our abundance is to be expanded and shared.
We are taught to use the talents and gifts we have been given. This is the lesson of the Parable of the Talents. The master gave his servants a varied number of talents, or coins. Then those servants were expected to “be faithful” over what they were given and increase their value. The servant who buried his talent was reprimanded for not daring to develop what little he was given. He was ousted into the darkness.
We are expected to use what we have been given by God. We are expected to leave the shallows where the common minds think, behave, and react, and instead, push off into the deep.
The deeper we delve into our hearts and minds to uncover what we believe and why, who we truly are, and whose we truly are, the more real we become. The truer to our authentic selves we grow, the more uncommon we become, and consequently, the more attractive to others. Human beings are attracted to the uncommon and unusual - unusual land formations, animals, flowers, sunsets, things out of the ordinary.
In the same way, we are attracted to people who respond with calm strength to disasters. We are fascinated by people who face complications with faith and confidence when others are filled with fear and doubt. We are attracted to the person who lives from their deeply placed God instructions rather than from the typical shallow human set of responses.
People who are being what they were meant to be and sharing their joy and authenticity with others are not found in the shallows. As Henry David Thoreau said, they “march to a different drummer.” They are living a love-based life but are not concerned with what anyone else is doing. They are not purposely out of step just to prove that they are different or join a pack of radicals just to be accepted. No, these rare individuals are attending to their own set of instructions as God has outlined for them on their hearts.
We can see this in how people communicate. Are we giving of ourselves from the shallows, or are we sharing our true feelings and asking engaging questions? When the situation calls for it, certainly not in every conversation, are we drawing from our inner experiences and inner instructions, or do we play it safe, like most people, and give traditional shallow answers to traditional questions. There is a time for casual conversation and small-talk, and a time to genuinely share from our hearts.
Push off into the deep and reap the awaiting abundance or stay in the safety of the shallows and have what the world tells us we should have - those are always our choices. But it is a choice.
Are we casting our nets of spiritual awareness into the deep - aligning with God’s presence within, allowing our connection with Christ to expand and illumine our thoughts and lives? Or are we taking the path of least resistance and ignoring the inner call from God? Are we staying close to shore, doing what everyone else is doing, because - if everyone is doing it, it must be right?
It is my prayer that we dare to cast out into the deep and forgo the comfort and safety of the earthly shallows. I pray we find the courage to remove the mask of convention and release the common ‘me.’ My prayer is that we will delve deep into our own hearts and find the instructions that God has placed there, and accept the divine abundance of peace, health, prosperity, wisdom, strength, joy, and love that awaits.