Torn nets: when God’s blessings are too much
“I always wanted four kids, I just never realized how hard it would be to have them this close together.”
My friend was drinking very strong coffee while wrangling her four kids aged six and under. She had been married 8 years and had moved 12 times in that period. In the past two years, her husband had taken three trips overseas, each time being gone for 3-4 months. He was gone for the birth of their youngest.
Another friend of mine has had five kids in six years, and after the birth of her youngest I stopped by to help out. She told me that her mom was in town to help, but had been relatively unhelpful. She summed up her mom’s attitude to their growing family as “You made your bed, now lie in it.” When I left, I took her six-year-old son with me and my boys to go visit another baby, my 2-day-old nephew. “Gabe,” I said, “Did you see this new baby?” Gabe looked unimpressed. “We have one just like that at home.”
Many of us recognize that children are a gift from God, but you, like me, probably find yourself wondering if you can handle any more of God’s blessing. After all, with blessings like these, who needs trials? As Jim Gaffigan says, “You want to know what it’s like having a 4th kid? Imagine you’re drowning…then someone hands you a baby.” And let’s not even ask the parents of 5, 6, 7 and more.
As I approach the due date for my fifth child, this issue is never far from my mind. A few nights ago I was complaining to my husband Ben about the discipline struggles we’re having with our three-year-old daughter, and he looked at me with a smirk and said, “Don’t worry. I’m sure as soon as the new baby is born she’ll shape up.”
As I talk to a lot of overwhelmed moms, and yes, identify as an overwhelmed mom, it can be difficult to categorize our kids, in the day-to-day grind, as blessings. Sure, in the cosmic sense, they’re blessings. But today? Now? In the middle of this battle of the wills, this temper tantrum, this middle-of-the-night wake-up call? And what about when we’re trying to scrape together the money for that next tuition payment, or medical bill? I found myself trying to think if there are other blessings that stretch us to our limit with such regularity as our children. Are there other blessings that cause us to cry out “Enough is enough! No more blessings, God!”
And then this story came to mind…
At the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry on earth, when he was calling disciples to come and follow him, he decided to richly bless Peter and some other fishermen one morning. They were mending their nets after a long, hard night of very unproductive fishing. But Jesus told them to take him out fishing again. Peter told Jesus they’d been out fishing all night with nothing to show for it, but Jesus insisted. So back out they went, and no sooner had they put their nets down where he told them, then the nets became so full, they began to tear. As if that weren’t bad enough, the weight of the fish was so great that the boat itself began to sink. I can just imagine Peter and his friends desperately trying to cope with the quantities of fish, then looking around in panic at Jesus as the boat started to go down.
Now, fish were these men’s livelihood. They went out fishing nearly every night, hoping for a good catch, hoping for full nets. And yet, here they were, completely overwhelmed and unprepared for the weight of Jesus’ blessing. Their nets couldn’t handle it. Their boat couldn’t handle it. They couldn’t handle it. They were stretched beyond their limit.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Do you feel like your nets are tearing? If you hadn’t noticed, our God doesn’t always subscribe to the “all things in moderation” maxim. Our God likes to drive home a point with excess, with extravagance, with hyperbole.
We’re not the first ones in history to ask for a break from the blessings. But we can look to Peter’s example to see how to respond. In the middle of the chaos, in a sinking boat, Peter fell at Jesus’ feet and cried out,
“Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”
When Peter saw what Jesus had done, he immediately recognized Jesus’ holiness and his own sin. It wasn’t about the quantities of fish. It was all about Jesus. Peter just fell at Jesus’ feet and acknowledged his own sin and inadequacy. Jesus said to Peter, “Do not fear. From now on you will be fishers of men.”
When they got back to shore, Peter left everything and followed Jesus. Now here’s the question. Have we humbled ourselves as Peter did, falling at Jesus’ feet? Have the overwhelming blessings forced us to confront our own sin and acknowledge God’s holiness? Are we ready to sacrifice everything for the blessings God is pouring out on us?
That’s the point. Right there. It isn’t about us and our ability to cope with God’s blessing. It isn’t about the fish. It isn’t even about the kids. It’s about God.
For each day of motherhood where God’s extravagance forces us to our knees, we better get a lot of practice saying with Peter, “I am a sinful man.” And then, let’s abandon everything—the torn nets, the sinking boat, every attempt to hold it all together and maintain our dignity—and go and follow Him. After all, he was taking Peter along for the ride, making him into a fisher of men. And that’s what we already are. Our fish are little men and women, who need to be called to Him. So let’s get back to work.
A Psalm While Packing Books
This cardboard box
see it says
200 lbs. per square inch.
The box maker knew
how much strain
the box would take
would crush it.
You are wiser
than the box maker
Maker of my spirit
Does the box know
when pressure increases close to
it knows nothing.
But I know
when my breaking point
And so I pray
Maker of my soul
Determiner of the pressure
Lest I be broken
change the pressure rating
of this fragile container
of Your grace
so that I may bear more.
-Joe Bayly, Psalms of My Life