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Success: It's Around Here Somewhere

by JANEL BREITENSTEIN SEEING FRUIT Burn out Expectations Discouragement Purpose Seeing & not seeing fruit Trust Obedience
Success: It's Around Here Somewhere
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“In Christ Jesus…The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
Galatians 5:6

A swell of emotion surprised me, leaving my cheeks a little wet. I was reading one of my favorite stories in the Bible: the miraculous catch of fish (Luke 5:1-11).

It happens twice, you know—like Jesus kind of had a pet miracle, a little inside joke with the disciples when they didn’t recognize him after his death.

But we can all resonate with times when we’ve been doing our best, what we know, and nothing happens. And then, by just obeying a simple command, doing the same things, suddenly there’s more windfall than capacity.

This story feels precious in my hands right now, like the smooth pink of a shell. 

Because part of what I also have to grieve about living in Africa is my own ineffectiveness. Or even more confusing, the ways God has not decided to visibly move despite our pleadings; despite obvious need. 

Despite miracles that did happen around us, discipleship was slow. Helping the poor was slow. Some of my most innovative strategies to intervene in poverty flopped, or fell to corruption or simple selfishness. 

I grieve reading that story because there is grief to be had. There were endless, isolating nights with an empty net.

So the irony is not lost on me that somehow, when that particular fishing trip is over, God could bring in a boat-jeopardizing load of fish whenever he chooses. I am secretly hoping to have my boat overflow with more fish than I can handle.

I feel this human bond with Peter’s response during Catch #1: Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord. 

I can imagine Peter internally rolling his eyes at the (pointedly) inane suggestion to a career fisherman to cast his net on the other side. I’m sure that will make a difference, clearly-not-a-fisherman-Jesus

I like that God humbles us by answering our half-hearted prayers. Our reluctant responses to obey what doesn’t make sense. 

So right now in my ministry and parenting, I am throwing out a net on the other side, watching it gracefully cascade to the water in arcs as I did one evening on the Nile. I am seeking to do “small” things with great love. 

And I am waiting for what I hope is somehow, inexplicably, a full net. 

Closing Prayer
“Grow us slowly, persistently, and deeply, Lord, to be people who watch without distraction, listen without interruption, and stay put without inclination to flee. “…We pray to be found faithful in the smallest things.” From Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals
Question for Reflection

What’s one way in which you have to trust God’s long game right now?

Janel Breitenstein
March 22, 2023

I’m trusting God with a prodigal right now. Feels like my heart is turned inside out.