“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:47-50).
Sort out the bad fish
“Spoiled fish can cause dramatic gastrointestinal symptoms – nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.” They should not be ingested, they should be tossed out. In the same way, there are relationships that can have a similar affect on our spiritual well-being. And these same relationships should not be embraced but rather cast out from the private areas of our life.
There are parts of yourself that certain people don’t deserve to see. People who subtly, or not-so subtly, tear you down shouldn’t be the ones to hear about your deepest insecurities. People who have a habit of only checking in when they need a favor, don’t get to witness you at your most vulnerable. Even parents, well-meaning parents who’ve been the cause of your pains, can lose the right to speak into those soft spots.
But sometimes, it’s not a person. Sometimes, the things most harmful to our growth are poor habits or movie genres. Be mindful of what you intake: from late-night conversations, to media, to the energy of those around you. Practice self-awareness. Notice how these things influence your thoughts and overall mood, then establish the necessary boundaries.
If you’re unhappily single, maybe you should take a break from the Rom-Coms. If you’re prone to procrastinating on assignments, maybe you should uninstall Angry Birds. Identify the things that trigger your anxieties and discontentment, then pluck them from your life.
Sort out the good fish
However, keep in mind, all the fish can’t be bad fish. And if you’re like me, you’re quick to toss out anyone or anything that causes slight distress. In doing so, we not only lose quality people but the lessons that they were meant to teach us. Lasting relationships require forgiveness. We are flawed, through and through. We are a broken people. And broken people, break people.
But God equips us with a strength and an endurance that allows us to fight against our innate nature to destroy. He “pour[s] out into our hearts, through the Holy Spirit” a love that pushes us to give indiscriminately (Rom 5:5). To give our time, our affections, our forbearance.
We are told, “happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy.” I believe there is a correlation between seeing brokenness and administering mercy. It is my prayer that we will be a community of individuals who see. That we would see the hidden and apparent brokenness permeating our friends, our co-workers, our baristas, our parents, our professors, and all in between. And that we would then respond to it with love- love in the form of mercy.
May we who have been forgiven much, also forgive much.
In times when this is difficult, I encourage you to remember the God in you. The God who stretched “the northern sky over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing” (Job 26:7). The God who “does not grow faint or weary” (Is 40:28). The God who is “wise in heart and mighty in strength” (Job 9:4).
This is the God who’s taken residence within our hearts.
This is the reason we love.