Girls Night In

the blog for single, over-40 women

Reading Between the Words

on August 14, 2015

Fishing by Toa55But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”                                                                                                                                                 ~Luke 5:5

Most writers have a favorite. Punctuation, I mean. I know I do—the em dash tops the list, and that pesky comma lands firmly at the bottom. I’ve never had strong feelings about the semicolon though. I don’t really give it much thought since it’s not something I need too often.

Hang in there; this isn’t a post about punctuation.

Anyway, last week I was reading the book of Luke and, believe it or not, the semicolon in chapter 5, verse 5 jumped out at me. Suddenly, because of that double-speck of punctuation, I saw something in the story I hadn’t noticed before.

This account comes at the beginning of Jesus’s earthly ministry. He’s been preaching, calling His disciples, casting out demons and healing people like Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. But it’s all new—He hasn’t chosen His apostles yet, and the men already following Him are still not entirely sure they know what’s going on. (Of course, it will be years before they start to understand.)

Then we have this brief dialog between Jesus and Simon starting in verse 4. It’s simple enough … but there’s that semi-colon, and I see more there than a pause. Maybe it’s because I’m an actor and adding nuance to the words on the page is what we do. Or maybe it’s because I’ve been reading a stack of Mary Stewart books lately. She often tells her stories with heavily punctuated dialog to let you know there’s more going on.

Take, for instance, her romantic suspense novel This Rough Magic. The main characters, Max and Lucy, have just rescued a beached dolphin and now stand triumphantly in the ocean, drenched but delighted. That’s when Max suddenly kisses Lucy. They joke, at first, and admit their feelings, then Max says, “Come here.” Lucy responds:

“Max, you’re impossible … Of all the complacent— This is ridiculous! What a time to choose …”

And we just know there’s more kissing going on under those ellipses and that em dash. Instead of describing it, Mary lets us use our imagination.

Now I see this semicolon in Luke 5 and wonder what happened in that space. Something certainly did because Simon, it would seem, changed his mind. Please indulge me for a moment as I speculate.

So they’re out by the Lake of Gennesaret one day and Jesus tells Simon to “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch,” Simon’s response seems like a pretty natural one. He says, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing …”

Just straight up facts there. Simon already knew it wouldn’t do any good to head back out. And, I imagine, he was tired, maybe a little frustrated, certainly not eager to get back on that boat. Then he does a one-eighty. Just like that. Why? It must have been the expression on Jesus’s face, right? Probably a mix of “Do you still doubt what I can do?” and “Trust me.”

I can almost hear Simon sigh. “Okay. Fine.” Well, that’s not actually what he said but his next word, “nevertheless,” sounds a bit like today’s “whatever.”

“… nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”

And he did.

And a miracle occurred. They caught so many fish they needed help from another boat … and both boats began to sink.

Simon could have just as easily put a period at the end of his response. “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing.” He could have shrugged and walked away and ignored the look Jesus gave him. And if he had, he would have missed the blessing.

How many times has Jesus called me to do something and instead of saying, “Yes, Lord,” I told Him all the reasons it was a dumb idea before turning away? How many times have I flat-out ignored Him?

In these situations, I need to pause and consider what I know about God. Like how He’s not going to ask me to do something without a plan. And sure, I might sigh and say, “whatever.” I hope not. But even if I do, as long as I still “let down the net,” I can move forward into His blessing.

As Simon Peter learned—it’s the best place to be.

What about you? When’s the last time you “let down the net” despite your misgivings?

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2 responses to “Reading Between the Words

  1. This is great, Sharyn. I love the em dash, too. I’m also a big fan of commas and semicolons. I guess you could say I just love most punctuation! (including the exclamation mark!)

    I guess I love punctuation for the same reasons you articulate here, because it can add meaning and imply more than the words alone can. I love what you have taken from Simon Peter’s pause. I wish I would take more of those pauses and move toward obedience myself.

    Thank you!

    • sharynkopf says:

      Maybe it’s a writer thing, this love of punctuation. And I wish the exclamation point was treated better too. Of course, I suppose the restrictions just make it more special.

      Thanks for your kind words, Charity! I’m glad I’m not the only seeing more in punctuation than what’s obvious.

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