“So they signaled their partners in the other boat to help them.” (Luke 5:7)
I wonder where we came up with the idea that we must be self-sufficient in order to survive and be successful. We live in a ‘pull yourself up by the bootstraps’ culture that is supportive of a ‘make it or break it’; ‘sink or swim’; and ‘I can do it on my own’ mentality. We are taught to view help, support, partnership and collaboration as inferior to a ‘Lone Ranger’ approach to life. We view other people as commodities we can get something from or as potential customers we can sell something to – often not valuing people’s humanity beyond our self-interested transactions.
The result is that most of us end up feeling like failures when we need help, or that we are suckers because others only want things from us. We live in the greatest technological age recorded in human history; rooted in high speed communication, networking and information overload, and yet we are lonely, isolated and anxious. We live on social media behind the mask of our apparent success and happiness while we fear being left-behind and forgotten without anyone noticing.
The truth is: even the Lone Ranger had Tonto!
We need other people and others need us. Humans have a high capacity for independence, but also a deep need for relationship, belonging, and shared experiences that give us meaning. We long for community, and we benefit greatly from collaboration. From friends, family, schools, places of business, sports, clubs, communities of faith, service organizations and many other groupings we participate in, we come together around common causes, actions and beliefs. Humans are social beings.
Jesus went to Lake Gennesaret (a.k.a. the Sea of Galilee, Luke 5:1) and there were two fishing boats on the shore where he was teaching the crowd. He got into Simon’s boat and went out on the water. When they approached the deep water, he told them to drop the nets. Simon protested, saying, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing” (Luke 5:5a). On their own nothing happened. But when the other boat came to help, the catch was so large both boats nearly sank.
It was by listening to Jesus and in calling to others that abundance nearly overwhelmed Simon. He pushed back against Jesus with his own unworthiness, but instead Jesus offered him (along with James and John) a new calling – to fish for people. They left behind the boats and followed Jesus (Luke 5:7-11).
Imagine the partnership Jesus calls for as a contrast to our ‘boot straps’ culture…
- What if we stopped pining for what we don’t have or what we thought we have lost and started realizing and living into the abundance right in front of us, because no matter how hard we have tried in the past or how tired we think we are, we listened to Jesus and when we did, we dropped the nets in the deep water?
- What would it look like if we relied on each other more, utilized our unique and individual set of gifts in our church-communities more, networked our churches and other organizations in our specific locations more, thought about how to connect actual resources to needs more productively, brought together multiple generations, ethnic heritages, faith backgrounds, economic status levels, etc. to work on the challenges we all face because being together and getting to know real people with real stories benefits everyone?
- What if we invited the neighbors around us we don’t know to service and community events, considered hosting forums on relevant topics from multiple perspectives, intentionally befriended the people we have been taught to be afraid of, sought humane ways to care for the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick and visit the imprisoned knowing we are not the answer, we have often failed, but we are open to keep pursuing our calling by seeking partners, collaborators and allies wherever we can find them?
We might need another boat.
Other ideas for this story…
- Jesus calls us into the deep waters. It can be scary, but he is not looking for shallow disciples or easy quick fixes. Jesus calls us out where the waters are often unknown, beyond the crowd we are used to, where the water is choppier than we think we can handle and the future is unknown. Jesus want us to take a risk. Remember: Just as Jesus called, “a sinful man” like Simon (at least Simon thought he was, Luke 5:8); he also calls you. Where do we hold back by our sense of guilt or reluctance or because we do not think we are up to the task? We are called to faith not certainty. So are you ready to go?
- When Jesus shows up, so does the abundant catch. They had worked all night without any fish. Once Jesus was there (or for us, once we realize Jesus is here) scarcity disappears, isolation vanishes, our self-imposed sense of failure dissipates, and it is possible for us to see something we may have missed before. So why do we try to live and work without seeing Jesus at work in our lives? In receiving the abundance of those gifts he asks us to share and invite others into his mission.
- Jesus seeks to make us his partners! Jesus only goes out on the water by borrowing Simon’s boat. This story could be told without a another boat. But as Luke describes, it is only when the second boat is called in, are the nets abundantly full. Think about this the next time you do something independent of other people. Consider how the things you do can impact others (both positively and negatively; intentionally and unintentionally). How might collaboration look at home, at work, at a place of learning or service, on a team or as part of a group, club or project? How might organizations you participate in benefit from working intentionally together? What is potentially lost when we don’t?