“Be careful what you ask for. You just might get it.” Over and over again, I’ve heard the old saw and wished that I could take a shot at it. When I was a child, teachers punctuated the warning against greed by relating the myth of Midas, who wanted more gold than any man could possibly utilize in a lifetime. The resulting blessing/curse of the “Midas touch”, which turned everything he came into contact with (including his daughter) into gold, was a cautionary tale against our natural desire to acquire immense wealth. Nobody bought it. The story was, after all, only a myth, a false tale calculated to elicit a desired effect. We weren’t going to be manipulated that easily.
If you know me well, you know that immense wealth is not my goal, nor my vice. I have been blessed to understand that money is merely a tool, to be used to reach a goal. Wealth is useful only as it helps to hit the target, to achieve the objective. I do, too obviously, have a number of other vices, of sins, that trip me up, so don’t get the wrong idea about me. I checked the mirror a few moments ago and I still don’t see any halo, any aura emanating from my person. However, I do have to admit that one of my fairly constant requests to the Giver of all Good Gifts has been that I would be able to influence a good number of people in my everyday life. Recently, I am thinking that it might be wise to limit my enthusiasm in making that request. I definitely find myself recalling, more often these days, the phrase with which I started this conversation. Be careful what you ask for…
I’ve always wondered, since childhood, why Jesus calmed the sea to save His disciples, but on another occasion, He also filled their boat with so many fish that it began to sink. Is it possible to have too many blessings? Can our ship of life sink from the weight of the results of our prayers? Evidently, it may be a distinct possibility. In this instance, the Apostle Peter found it out when his Teacher removed his frustration with a night spent in fruitless endeavor. “We fished all night and caught nothing.” I’m guessing that he was imagining the net coming up one last time with two or three good sized fish, so he and his buddies could eat for a day. But, the next thing he knew…Boom! Nets were breaking, the little boat was capsizing from the weight of the catch, and it was necessary to beg for help from a nearby craft! Be careful what you ask for…
What does that have to do with me? Over the last few weeks, I’ve found myself a little overwhelmed personally. Oh, it’s not a bad kind of being overwhelmed; I just feel that there is a lot more on my plate than I can comfortably sink my teeth into. Recognizing that my area of ministry is where I work as well, I would have to say that the opportunities to minister have snowballed and I’m not sure I’m up to the task. The ship isn’t going down yet, but it is listing a bit. I am also finding that as with most fish nets, there are a lot of captured items in the mix which don’t belong. Even so, they weigh the boat down as well. You know, the fisherman wants a certain breed of fish, but there are turtles, and dolphins, and even a shark or two trapped there too. In the right context, all those things (well…maybe not the sharks) have value. But here, they distract and take up valuable space on the boat. (The sharks, especially bear keeping an eye on.) I’m doing my best to concentrate on the essentials, but the peripherals, which can seem urgent at times, keep infringing.
Some of the peripherals are even a little shiny, and they tempt us in other ways to take our eyes off the real catch. I’m still struggling with that. Setting priorities is hard to do when there are so many attractive things that draw us away from the essential. I’m learning that the pretty distractions need to be culled out, just like the unwanted catch in the nets. Yeah, another one of those long-term projects that I’ll probably still be working on when I’m eighty. Hopefully, some progress will have been made by then.
I’m guessing that I’m not the only one on this boat, am I? I hear it everyday…“overwhelmed”…”more than I can cope with”…“swamped”…the list goes on. Many of you already have a full boat. But here’s the best part of the story…They got help from their friends. We are not in this alone. The boat is not a one-man craft, nor are we on the sea with no one near by. I love the reminder. We have each other to turn to, when the job becomes too much for one person. This is not only true in the physical realm, but in the spiritual and emotional as well. Aid is near at hand!
I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to ask for help. It is a trait ingrained in me from childhood. It turns out that our society has helped with that also, the silent, self-sufficient superstar being the hero of most of the great tales of our culture. It is weakness to call for help, a signal of failure, the white flag of surrender. As I age, that is (slowly) changing and I am recognizing the lie of self-sufficiency. The great gift of companionship is, of all gifts, one of the sweetest. Slow learner though I may be, I am starting to be able to take advantage of the gift.
I pray that progress will be made before the craft is completely swamped. Truly, as we share in the burden, we take part in the harvest.
“Come on, Mr. Frodo. I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you!”
(Samwise Gamgee in “The Lord Of The Rings” by JRR Tolkien~English writer~1892-1973)
“However many blessings we expect from God, His infinite liberality will always exceed all our wishes and our thoughts.”
(John Calvin~French Theologian~1509-1564)