I was with a young man who had just completed the biggest business deal of his career and, if managed right, left him with a fortune that would provide for he and his family for the rest of their lives. I asked him how he felt and he said, "I'm afraid. I know I don't deserve this and I might lose it as quickly as I made it. God might take it away."
That reminded me of Jesus' calling Peter in the boat on the lake. They just had the biggest catch of their lives and suddenly Peter says, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinner." It's odd, really because it is his biggest success. It's a windfall catch. So big the boats are sinking with the enormous haul. Why are my friend and Peter not thrilled for more than a moment? Why does sudden success so often create crippling inadequacy and fear?
Of course, Peter may have been saying something else entirely. Success upsets the routine of life. It interrupts the ordinary that we count on for stability. It's better as a goal than an accomplishment - especially when it comes out of nowhere and is inexplicable. It's not supposed to happen this way. Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania is quoted by Arthur Brooks in a recent Wall Street Journal article. "We found that even when good things occurred that weren't earned...it did not increase people's well-being. It produced helplessness." Peter may have been saying, "I'm more comfortable with what I know than I am with this. I don't need this because it will at some point, sooner or later, expose what I know to be true about myself. There, I've said it. Now leave and let life go back to what it was."
Of course, that's not how it ends. Fortunately. It ends with that extraordinary invitation only a few people heard from Jesus. "Follow me". Even better for Peter he heard it twice. Here after his greatest success and then later after his greatest failure.
I suppose that's what I want my young friend to hear. "Follow me." That is always the point of the story. No easy explanations or assurances. No promises of future miracles or an easy life. Just follow me.