Into the Sea of God


“Launch out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”


God expects us to go farther into the water. We all have times in our Christian journey when we become complacent. We get comfortable with our faith, and would be comfortable remaining just where we are. God asks more of us.


“When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Launch out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’ When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break” (Luke 5:4-6).


What is this deep water?


It is the presence of God. When you read the lives of the saints you see men and women that are thoroughly transformed. You can see it in their faces. Every fiber of their being is charged with God’s presence. They did not come into the world as saints. They were born with the same problems as any of us, flawed parents, messed up circumstances, and unlucky genes. They are set apart simply because of one thing: determination. Saints become saints because they stop making excuses and give it all up for God.


Who exemplifies this better than St. Paul? Life smacked him back and forth again and again, but he never wavered.


“Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked" (2 Corinthians 11:25-27).


Why did St. Paul keep going? He desired God. He desired not a morsel of God, not a sample, but the fullness of God. He was determined to live his life launching out deeper into the sea. The saint expresses this in his letter to the Ephesians:


“I pray you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God" (3:17-18).


You can hear him saying it under his breath. “Stop settling.” “Stop making excuses for mediocrity.” “Do you see the importance of this little time given us here on earth?”


I do not. When I examine myself in honesty, I can see how little I care for God. I have big thoughts at times. But when it comes to the moment, I usually take the easier way out. Next, I justify it. “Poor guy, you need a break.” “It isn’t your fault.” “God can’t expect more from me.” It is the never-ending story: one excuse after the other.


‘Wisdom calls out…How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?’ (Proverbs 1:22).


But Christ does not give up on us. He continues to press us. He says to us:


“Launch out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”


Pay attention to St. Peter’s response, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing” (Luke 5:6).


“God, why do you want me to go deeper? I have done everything reasonable. I am a good enough Christian. I am tired. You can’t expect more from me.”


St. Peter had every reason to question Christ’s instruction. He was not like those lazy fishermen who cast their rod, turn on the radio, and kick up their feet. He had been fishing all night long. It would be insensible to think that he should do more.


This reminds me of a sad remark I once heard someone make. I was seventeen, a new convert to Orthodoxy, and though it was a passing comment, it sunk into my heart and became a stumbling block. “Father so-and-so expects too much from us. After all, we are not monks.” I have heard similar statements in the years since. “We are not all called to be monks.” “We do not have time to pray unceasingly.”


What a bunch of hog-wash.


Yes, we are not all called to be monks. We are all called to be as vigilant as the monks. We are expected to push ourselves farther out in the sea of God, with as much determination as the monks. My elders warned me when I left the monastery, “It is a harder life outside of the monastery.” They were right. It is harder when you live in the world to sacrifice everything to God. But that too is no excuse.


“‘Launch out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets’” (Luke 5:5).


Salvation hinges on this phrase, “Yet if you say so.”


“When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break” (Luke 5:6).


They stopped making excuses. They launched out into the sea. They dared to let go and abandoned themselves into the daunting ocean of God, and it was beautiful.


"God is a sea of being, immeasurable and limitless” (St. Gregory the Theologian).


“We can reach God only from the depth of our souls…There is no place at all in this vast universe where we can meet God except within ourselves. Here, he waits for us; here, we face him and talk to him; here, he answers us…Meditating on the law of God keeps the heart warm and glowing with the fire of the divine word, for meditation intrinsically implies a continual delving…[This requires] psychological effort and mental concentration…The conscience must stand alert to counteract freely all the psychological and mental preoccupations that [brings] the worshipper to an impasse…Man’s will has to remain active, patient, and in anticipation until divine power descends upon it and spiritual warmth flows into it. It is then that man is launched inwardly and begins his prayer and meditation with all joy” (Matthew the Poor).


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