It is another typical night in the Watkins house. I have stuff I need to do, and my youngest kids are carrying on in their bedroom, refusing to go to sleep. As I get increasingly annoyed, I also have the increasing inclination to holler at them.
Unfortunately, I’m the sort who all too easily follows such inclinations. As a result, when the house finally goes quiet I feel like the worst father in the world, and my little ones drift off to sleep with Monster Dad as the final image of their day. It happens pretty often around here. And it always makes me feel awful. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I promise myself (and my kids) “no more yelling.” Within a few days I’m back at it, unable to overcome my weaknesses in spite of the best intentions.
Such moments of fallibility often make me think of Simon Peter, a man who all too often failed to make good on his good intentions. One story about him has seemed particularly relevant to me of late, which of course means that I’m going to foist it upon you as well.
On one occasion, Peter and his fishing partners had worked through the night without catching so much as a minnow. As they cleaned their nets, no doubt frustrated with their failure, Jesus approached. “Launch out into the deep,” Jesus suggested, “and let down your nets for a draught.”
The results were staggering. Literally. The scripture tells us that when they let down their net “they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink” (Luke 5:6-7).
Simon Peter’s reaction to this miraculous haul was immediate. We’re told “he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8). Of course, rather than departing, Jesus did just the opposite: he invited Peter to leave his boat and his nets at the lakeside and to become instead a fisher of men.
There is an essential lesson here for all of us. Consider what took place: Because he viewed himself as a “sinful man,” Peter tried foolishly to keep Jesus out of his life. Even in the face of an overwhelming miracle, Peter’s own sense of guilt and unworthiness caused him, as if by instinct, to ask Jesus to depart from him.
Such is the nature of sin, isn’t it? It fills us with self-doubt, making us feel unworthy even of that which requires no worthiness. The trouble is, we know ourselves too well, don’t we? Deep down in our hearts we know that God knows, that He’s onto us.
At the same time, the great promise of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that through Him even I can overcome my shortcomings. I must put my faith in Him and in His Atonement, believing as I do so that in the end “his grace is sufficient” to make up that huge gap between what I should be and what I am. The scripture says:
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. (Ether 12:27)
I certainly hope that’s true. And, I suppose, so do my kids.