It's been one of those Spring days when the sea mist rolls in and the sun is just to weak to disperse it. While the rest of the country has been bathed in sunshine with temperatures reaching as high as 61, here in Bournemouth it has been rather cool. Earlier in the week we had sat in the garden sunning ourselves, watching the birds and admiring the first tulips, but today I wore an anorak on a short trip to the post office. I have felt like the sun; too weak to disperse anything. This is in part a reaction to the Hickman line which left me bruised and aching around the neck and in part a reaction to flucloxacillin given to prevent wound infection. It has given me heartburn. This afternoon I slept for 90 minutes in an armchair.
To catch 153 fish and not break your nets is a lifetime achievement. It has often occurred to me that when you achieve some great feat it must be difficult to produce a follow on. After Bob Beamon's great leap in the Mexico Olympics that beat the World Long Jump record by about 3 feet, what was left for him to do? Steve Redgrave won gold medals in 5 successive Olympic Games in the rowing; from here his life must be all downhill. Did Pete Samprass get bored with winning Grand Slam events? Will Tiger Woods have a life after golf?
When I won the Binet-Rai medal for my work on IgVH genes in CLL it was the summit of my career. I would never produce anything that important again. For me everything would be a downward slope.
So, Peter, your lifetime best catch has been achieved, what do you do next?
The disciple whom Jesus loved (presumably John, though Ben Witherington III thinks it was the risen Lazarus), said to Peter, "It is the Lord."
As soon as Simon Peter heard him say it, he wrapped his outer garment around him and jumped into the water to go to him. He left his lifetime achievement behind and rushed to Jesus.
There is a scene at the end of Schindler's List where Oscar Schindler realises that though he has connived at rescuing over a thousand Jews, he could have done more. He tears off his ring, "That will buy two more," he says in desperation.
At the end of our lives we are all frustrated that we could have done more, but without trying to boast (forgive me if it sounds like boasting) I'm not sure how I could have done more with my life. I could have done it differently - spent more time with my family, avoided certain vanities, given more to the needy and so on, but a life is a whole and what I did in one area was dependent of what I did in others. No, it's not that. But I still feel that my task is unfinished.
I have friends who have spent their latter years in the poorest part of Malawi. They tell me how non-existent the medical services are there. I know that even my limited general skills and absent surgical skills would help in a place like that, and I have thought of possibly spending a few weeks or months out there. I fear my illness has put a stop to that idea. I applied to serve on a government committee on standards in public life, but that door has also closed. I have a feeling now that if the Lord spares me it will be to serve him in some undisclosed way. Before my operation I was in rude health and I expect to be so again. So my prayer is, "Jesus show me how I too may feed your lambs."