Reading that post broke something open in me. Something deep down that had been locked away for months and months. And I sensed it even then, that here in an unexpected way, something big was about to happen. But I couldn't put it into words, couldn't put my finger on what was happening.
And although I hoped for it with an aching, yearning heart, I couldn't dare to believe that this might be the returning of my faith. But in the end, these six months later, I now know it was exactly that.
I am certain I cannot do it justice, but still I will try, in my own faltering way, to tell you what that post means to me.
It is a story about life and loss. It is a story about surveying the months and years of devastation in our lives and asking the question, "What do we do with all this?" The heartache and the grief, the losses and the brokenness. How do we make sense or make peace? How to we find our feet or find our way?
The answer is simple and strange, unexpected and yet so perfectly true: We count fish.
It's the answer found in John 21:1-14. Jesus is appearing to some of His disciples after the Resurrection. The disciples are out in the boat, having fished all night. They have caught nothing, but Jesus calls to them from the shore and tells them to move their net to the other side of the boat. And even though they do not yet know it is Jesus, they do as He says. And they catch fish. More fish than they can even haul into the boat.
And then comes this: "Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, 'Come and have breakfast.' None of the disciples dared ask him, 'Who are you?' They knew it was the Lord."
As Ann Voskamp points out, "Someone had counted the fish!"
And what does this mean for us, for our broken lives and our endless losses?
It means "you pull in your life and you see that though you felt ripped open —the net actually didn’t tear. That there’s much in your net. And you actually count them. You make sure you count the fish. So you don’t have to ask: You know it is the Lord.... You count every single grace that He gave through the long dark night, and you see that there are more than 153. Far more than 153. It’s a feast!" (Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience)
Yes, we count fish.
One of the things I have learned these last two years, so very long in their depth and breadth, is that counting our losses is natural and necessary. Counting them helps us grieve, helps us process, helps us see the truth of our losses. And we need that, I think, to really live. To learn and gain and grow somehow from what has been taken from us. To sit for a time in the ashes of our lives so that when He brings the beauty and rebuilds the ruins, we will know how great is this Grace that carries us through.
But counting fish is something different. Something not quite as natural perhaps, but even more necessary. It is, really, about counting our gains. Not just the big and the obvious, but also the tiny and the ordinary, the ones no one else sees but us. It is about finding the good things in our everyday lives and recognizing them for what they most truly are: Gifts from the One who loves us beyond all understanding.
And it is in this counting of gifts, this cultivation of our gratitude to Him that we find our way in the midst of deep losses and everyday burdens. It is here that we open our eyes and our hearts and our lives to see and feel and live His goodness.
As this new year begins and unfurls, I am beginning my own journey of counting fish. Over at A Holy Experience, it is known as the One Thousand Gifts List. And although I have only been counting gifts for four weeks now, already I feel my spirit changing, shifting, opening up, rejoicing.
And I hope--no, I pray that some of you, Dear Friends, will consider joining me on this journey to a thousand gifts and beyond.
So let the counting begin...
#1 The desire to give thanks
#2 Kimberley, who inspires me in this and many other things
#3 Sleeping cats, all peaceful and adorable
#4 Kitty love
#5 People who deck out their yards with Christmas lights--kindred spirits every one!
#6 Sunshine warming my face in the middle of December
#7 The amaryllis that blooms faithfully and sometimes unexpectedly, inspiring poetry and photography alike
#8 The nearness of my God in the middle of the night when I am feeling abandoned
#9 Snowflakes--both the glittery plastic ones hanging on my tree and the real ones we occasionally see here in winter
#10 Finding beauty in the ordinary
#11 A makeshift Christmas tree for this makeshift chapter of life, teaching me to live even in the "in between"
#12 A pie made with love by a dad who doesn't bake
#13 A surprise visit and "Happy Birthday" hug from a sweet friend
#14 Happy little spring-colored tea mugs--for 49 cents each!
#15 Purple irises in December, their little yellow throats seeming to shout, "Rejoice! Hope is near!"
#16 Hand-sewn Christmas bags to bring joy back into the wrapping of gifts
#17 The beloved friend who sewed these perfect bags for me
#18 Tiny poinsettia in a very untraditional color--peach!
#19 Glittery red and green antlers on my head, with little bells jingling in my ears with every move
#20 Shiny gold tea mug proclaiming "NOEL!" and hidden in the bottom of a Christmas stocking
And this is only the beginning of what I've already written down. And all that I've written down is only a glimpse of what is to come. Because God's goodness is ever-present, ever-growing, ever-beautiful.
And this is the beginning of falling in love again with the One who has loved me always with an Unfailing Love.
Will you join me?