Fish and Forgiveness
Did it really happen? Racing to the tomb. Finding the linen grave clothes. Not knowing what to think. Hiding in fear ... and then — Him. Right there, alive. Feeling His breath on my face and hearing Him whisper, "Holy Ghost."
Did it really happen? And what did it mean? He said, "I send you." But where?
I don't understand.
Seeing Him again, I wanted to bawl for joy and at the same time hide for shame. That final night ... what I did...
There's just one thing I understand. And that's fishing.
As our ragtag crew sloshes onto the Sea of Tiberias, the cool night air feels fresh and crisp, but it isn't the same as before. Before Him.
Salty water splashes my arms and shoulders as I throw the nets with all my strength — again. We've been at this all night and nothing. Something about this whole thing is wrong.
(Or is the "wrong thing" me? How can I still belong after what I did? Am I jinxing this voyage like Jonah?)
The sun rises, and there's a man on shore. He's telling us to switch the nets from left to right — like that will make a difference. Our hairy-knuckled hands fling the sodden ropes into the rippling below.
A tug. More than a tug. A few grab hold and pull, but it's too heavy. Peering down, I see a frenzied swarm of flippers and fins, and my heart leaps. When I raise my eyes, I meet John's, and he says, "It is the Lord." Then my heart stops. The man on shore. It's Him.
Without thinking, I pull on my fisher's coat, leap into the sea, and swim for all I'm worth to shore. It's only 300 feet or so, but I emerge from the surf weak-kneed, panting. He's there, standing tall, serene, staring at me.
Is He going to say it now that we're alone? Is He going to confront me with what I did? The lies I spoke?
Not long later, we are all sitting around a crackling fire crunching on fish and scarfing down bread. When our bellies are bulging, I see that He's looking at me. My heart hammers. He's going to finally expose me. Demand an explanation. Dole out punishment — the punishment I rightly deserve.
"Lovest thou me more than these?" The same question repeated three times.
I answer honestly, "You know I love you," but I feel like a hypocrite. I said I loved Him that night ... I promised I'd die before I let anyone hurt Him. And just a few hours later...
I deserve to be shamed, denounced, at the very least reprimanded.
"Feed my sheep."
Something swells inside my chest. It's the same feeling that inspired awe at the fish, that sent me diving for shore. Is this the Holy Ghost?
"Feed my sheep."
It's not condemnation. It's a commission.
I feel warm, like holy oil is running down my head, fire is pulsing through my veins, someone's strong arms are surrounding me.
He still wants me after what I did to Him. There's still a place for me in His kingdom, the kingdom I gave up hoping for.
It's here. And I'm part of it.
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