I think that one of the best feelings to experience is the joy of seeing a good friend who you haven’t seen in a long time. When I was a senior in high school, an exchange student from Switzerland lived with my family for a year. Sera and I immediately became inseparable, and it was tough to say goodbye when she returned home at the end of the year. Two summers ago, I visited Sera in Switzerland, and when I got off the plane, we couldn’t contain our joy and excitement at being reunited after being apart for a year.
I can only imagine what it must have felt like for the disciples to be reunited with Jesus after thinking that he was gone forever. My favorite story in the Bible takes place after the Resurrection. The disciples are in the fishing boat, and they fish through the night, unable to catch anything. Just as dawn breaks, they see a figure onshore, who tells them to cast their net into the sea on the other side of the boat. They reluctantly do so, and when they pull it up, they find the net teeming with fish. My very favorite part of the story comes when Peter realizes that it’s Jesus onshore, and he is so filled with joy that he simply cannot wait for the boat to get to shore to see him—he jumps into the waves and swims toward Jesus.
Peter’s joy is so full and unbridled that he allows it to overcome him. His joy outweighs his concern about getting wet, or any worries that the waves might drown him, and he swims toward Jesus with the single-minded determinedness of one who will do whatever it takes to get to the one he loves. In a world so full of problems and suffering, we must allow ourselves to be overcome with a joy that overpowers any fear that stands in the way of us being with God.
Not everything God is calling us to do will be easy— we will have to to serve and sacrifice and deny ourselves. The sea will not always be smooth for us; there will be waves that threaten us. But we are driven forward by the joy of knowing that the one we love and who loves us is waiting on the shore for us, and he will not allow us to drown.
When we are like Peter, who will do whatever it takes to get to Jesus, the burdens we bear seem small in comparison with the happiness we feel knowing that we are heading straight into the arms of our Savior. Like Peter, we must have the courage to jump out of the boat. We all have our own boats, made up of the things that are familiar, easy, and comfortable for us. We are all sometimes reluctant to venture into the unknown; we often prefer to stay where we are comfortable. But what is waiting for us onshore is so much better! Peter had to leave the safety and familiarity of the boat in order to remove the space between him and Jesus. Likewise, we have to venture away from what is comfortable and be willing to face head on whatever challenges life has in store for us, propelled forward by the pure joy of knowing that God is there waiting for us with open arms.
I love to think about what it must have felt like, after a long, dark night of fishing and catching nothing, to see the sun finally rise, and to realize that one you thought was gone has come back for you. Just as we must not be afraid to allow ourselves to feel pain and sadness, we also must not be afraid to allow ourselves to feel pure happiness, because we are loved completely and unconditionally. Even when the night is dark and the waves are high and the water cold, we rejoice and jump out of our boat, because love is waiting for us onshore, and we will allow nothing to separate us from it.