“When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.” –John 21:9
I used those words repeatedly in the classroom as the fourth nine weeks of the academic school year arrived. Students have a tendency to slack off as they see the finish line approaching. Accordingly, I offered them a push to not give up … to not allow the strong effort of the three, previous nine weeks to be dimmed by a lack luster, weak conclusion. For the most part, as long as my “push” was present, so was theirs.
A strong finish is often accompanied by a strong cheerleader.
But every now and again, despite the encouraging voices along the way, there comes a season when we don’t finish strong. Sometimes, we just finish. Not strong. Not pretty. Nothing to brag about and not a single cheerleader in sight. Instead, we wearily drag our lives, our work and our witness, sloppily to the finish line, hoping for an acceptable conclusion but realizing deep within that it could have been so much more–a better, stronger finish.
It’s not a comfortable fit for me. Still and yet, it’s one I’m wrestling with today as I prepare for the closing of one chapter so that another one may begin. There are some loose ends dangling around the edges of my heart, some regret about the messy steps I’ve taken toward this particular finish line.
How about you? Do you have regrets–things you wish you had said, done … not said, not done?
Regret is a heavy burden to bear, and if I’m not careful, it can quickly overshadow the many positive, strong steps I’ve made along the way. Perhaps you understand. Maybe you, too, are crossing a finish line with no personal fanfare, no pats on the back, and no gold medal in sight. This hasn’t been your strongest finish because you haven’t given your personal best. The outcome is less because the output has been less. Your hands are empty, but (in contrast) your heart is filled with the pangs of would’ve, could’ve, should’ve.
Thankfully, there is a workaround for regret, a way to move past regret and to move forward in hope for the next lines in your story. That workaround?
It’s found in Scripture. It’s found with the Scripture-Writer, the Truth-Teller, the Grace-Giver … Jesus.
On this particular occasion as recorded in John’s Gospel, Jesus was also known as the fire-Starter, the fish-Catcher, the fish-Cooker, the fish-Feeder and the bread-Bringer. After a season of sloppy, woeful finishes by his disciples at the Crucifixion, Jesus stands on the other side of that line to offer them a breakfast full of hope. Instead of casting further shame into their hearts, Jesus lays before them a bounty of fresh fish and bread. In doing so, he offers them a fresh start. He didn’t remove their regrets from their minds; instead, he holy and profoundly reframed them against the backdrop of his grace.
Their Cheerleader wasn’t MIA after all. He was waiting for them on the shoreline, calling them in for breakfast, and feeding their hearts with the gift of his presence, his love, and his willingness to entrust his kingdom to their fledgling faith. Shame and regret didn’t get the final word in the disciples’ lives. Jesus did.
He speaks the same over you and me. His is a message of undeserved grace, love, and trust. Jesus Christ stands at all the finish lines we’ll cross on this side of eternity. At times, we’ll finish strong. At other times, we’ll just finish. But in all times, in all finishes, God offers the gift of his grace, the gift of a second race … a third, fourth, tenth, hundredth race. Another opportunity to finish strong … to finish with Him.
Jesus Christ is our workaround, friends. Always. When we fail to finish as beautifully as we would have liked, he never fails to meet us at that point of frustration and to remind us that all has not been lost in the night.
The dawn is approaching. The embers are burning. The fish are frying, and the Master is calling.
Breakfast is served. Won’t you come and taste grace today? I’ll meet you at the table. As always …
Peace for the journey,