The sacred writings of my people contain a story about a fisherman who spends all night trying to make a catch. He needs this. Fishing is his profession, his livelihood. This is how he feeds his family, how he makes the money he needs to care for them. The night has been a bust. Exhaustion and discouragement wash over him.
Then some guy ln the shore, a layman, not a professional, tells him to try again, but on the other side of the boat. The fisherman does. He drops his net in the water on the other side of his boat. This time the nets fills up so much he cannot bring his net in.
This is his first encounter with the incarnate God. What would have happened had he not dropped his net again?
For me the idea of trying again when things get difficult is, well difficult. I give up quite easily. I once was known for my perseverance. Not my hallmark any longer. But even at my best, I don’t think I would have fared well in this story.
There gets a point where it becomes obvious nothing is happening here; nothing is going to change. Repeating the process lacks appeal. The old saying surfaces: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Does perseverance equate to insanity? Is giving up really wisdom?
I struggle with this. Never give up shaped much of my life. Only losers surrender. Go down fighting. Don’t be a quitter.
Except, quitting my cola addiction would be a major success.
I have pushed on and fought for many a thing that wasn’t worth it. Some early girlfriends should have been left long before the final breakup. I should have moved on from some jobs before I finally did. But, instead, I stuck with it.
But when things get the level this fisherman dealt with, I would nave stopped. During my long wasteland of unemployment, it got to the point that I submitted resumes because it was the thing you do each day, like taking a shower or using the toilet. I held no hope that anything good would come from it. In fact, using the toilet had more value. This is the closest I can relate to doing what this dude did. There were so many days that I wouldn’t try again.
I know quite a few people who sell for a living. Everything is a bout the next call. So what if the last didn’t go well. Make the next call. They just keep putting the net back in the water, knowing it will payoff.
Is this faith? Is it trust in their product or service? In their ability to make a sale? In the knowledge that they will succeed only about ten percent of the time and trust that it will eventually average out?
Or is it insanity that works?
I’ve been told that you haven’t tried to publish if you haven’t been rejected 35 times. Why 35? why not 36? I don’t know. But for whatever reason that’s the magic number to define actually trying or not. Well, I tried. Over and over.
At what point is putting the net back in the water insanity? At what point is just trying one more sale knowing that I only need one to pay off?
Water drips onto and runs off a rock. The rock is immovable. The water flows off. By the definition of doing things over and over, this is insanity. But, erosion is a long, slow process. That water, given enough time, will change that rock, will wear it away.
Perhaps faith, hope and courage all fall in the crazy side of life. Perhaps quitting is the safest thing. Perhaps society wants us to just fall in line.
Putting my net back in the water feels pointless. Why try again? Why submit another manuscript? Why book another performance?
But what if pointlessness is the point? What if trying again, even if it won’t work, is the whole point. Maybe faith and hope and courage exist in those moments. Maybe they are slowly eroding my fear, my sloth, my depression, lack of life. Maybe a little life seeps back in with each try.
What if putting the net back in the water is the only way to embrace life. What if putting the net back in the water is the only way to engage an incarnate god.
Maybe it takes a little insanity to make life make sense, make it worth living. Maybe giving the finger to failure keeps it at bay.
Try to resuscitate that dream.