© 2016 Lynn Abbott
I don’t know all the details. But I can certainly imagine. After all, the story became absolutely legendary over Christmas ham and mashed potatoes.
And while I have long forgotten what else graced the holiday table, I never forget a good story.
Of course, Dad’s tales especially fascinated me. And what’s more, I believed in the absolute truth of his retelling.. After all, no fish tales were allowed in our house. Or so Dad said.
My favorite story was no exception. It held particular poignancy retold within the context of holiday meals.
You see, for a seven-year-old, mealtime was always an unwanted and undesirable interruption. After all, there were just so many more interesting things to do.
Thus, when my maternal Grandmother told me I must finish the dreaded green peas before I could be excused from the table, Dad stepped in to save my day with a story and a grin.
“Did I ever tell you about my mom and the puppy?” he began.
“Yeah, Dad…but tell it again!”
“Well, of course, your aunts and I always wanted a puppy,” he launched. “And so we were completely delighted with the somewhat emaciated and sorry excuse for a pup that showed up in our household. My mother, as always, took charge.”
I nodded enthusiastically, beaming in my efforts to encourage my favorite storyteller.
“That puppy, in her estimation, must be fattened up. Her compassionate heart broke to see such a sad creature. She loved that pup nearly as much as we did. She was always giving him good things to eat. ‘Eat, puppy dog; eat!’ she’d lovingly chide.”
“And then what, Dad?” I sat on the edge of my maple, Windsor chair.
“Well, of course, a puppy will eat whatever you put in front of him. And so, he would eat. Then, she would give him more. ‘Eat puppy dog; eat!’ And he ate and ate and ate…”
“And?” I said beginning to squirm with excitement, anticipating the coup d’etat…the clinching argument, my rescue.
“And still she said, ‘Eat, puppy dog; eat!'” Dad said, relishing the suspense of a spinning tale. “And he ate and he ate and he ate some more. In fact, a puppy never knows when to stop eating. And, I’m sorry to say, that he ate himself to death.”
I looked with triumph upon my other grandmother.
“‘Eat puppy dog; eat!” Dad repeated, with twinkling mischief in his eyes.
Everyone but my grandmother burst out laughing.
Come to think of it, sometimes I’m a bit like that puppy. Well, maybe not with food. I still dislike green peas.
However, I certainly overdo a lot of other good things.
When someone invites me to be a part of some activity, to reach out to others, to help out with a project, I enthusiastically say “yes!” Again and again, I bite off more than I can chew.
Eat, puppy dog, eat.
Before I know it, I carry too great a load. I stagger under the weight of the commendable.
Scrambling day and night, I barely tread water.
And there is always just that one more worthy cause or activity. One more need to fill.
Eat, puppy dog, eat.
Yup. I’ll watch reruns of Little House on the Prairie, but my life more closely resembles, as Kimmel puts it, the Little House on the Freeway.
You betcha. I run from activity to activity; project to project… pond to pond, looking for my place in this world.
I long to be of service to Abba. I wish to lift others. I want to reach my world for Christ. After all, life is short. With what little time I have, I hope to touch as many hearts as I can.
And so I drop my fishing line in numerous and scattered places. I cast my net on diverse waters.
Quite frankly, I exhaust myself with the effort.
Maybe you can relate. Perhaps, you get tired, too.
Yet, that internal voice repeatedly says, Eat, puppy dog, eat.
I suppose that’s why I love the story of Eutychus.
Although Eutychus is mentioned but briefly in the book of Acts, those five, dedicated verses remind me that Abba loves the weary.
Eutychus’ grace encounter began simply enough. He attended a gathering of believers who sat under the teaching of the apostle Paul.
On that particular occasion, Paul knew that he would leave Troas the following day; thus, he spoke until midnight.
Of course, in today’s post Edison world, working late might not seem particularly unusual. In early A.D., however, burning the midnight oil was quite extraordinary.
Eager to learn more of Abba, the believers nevertheless stayed. And Paul taught.
Eutychus had discovered a cozy spot in the crowded room. Seated on the window sill, he struggled to remain awake.
A full day’s activity, the dim lighting, the lateness of the hour–all conspired against him.
Luke, the author of Acts, writes that Eutychus was “sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on.”
I jest not. That’s exactly what it says: “as Paul talked on and on.”
Luke’s description creates a humorous mental picture: I picture Paul– passionately preaching– and poor Eutychus, intermittently nodding off.
I’ve been there; I’ve walked in Eutychus’ sandals.
That’s why I can say with confidence that Eutychus loved Abba with all his heart.
I have no doubt that he sought to serve God in whatever way he could. He probably tried to juggle it all.
He was a committed “fisher of men,” a devoted follower of Christ. For this reason, I’m sure that he had put in a long workday before Bible study with Paul.
I get that.
Thus, as the hour grew late, he finally succumbed to the sand man’s gentle push …
And fell from the third story.
Gasp. The believers must have rushed to the street level. Luke reports that although they picked Eutychus up, it was too late.
Eutychus didn’t survive.
Indeed, the account has all the makings of a tragedy. But Grace revised the outcome.
Abba, through Paul, wrapped His arms around Eutychus. There were no words of recrimination. No one said, “You should have chosen a better seat or had another cup of coffee.”
And there was no assignment of blame.
Instead, compassion showed up in a big way.
Tired? Feeling overwhelmed and scattered?
Eutychus’ experience demonstrates that Abba not only loves us, but He also understands our physical limitations. He longs to gently wrap us in His arms.
David reminds us in Psalm 103:13, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.”
And so it was. Grace intervened that night on a street in Troas.
Paul, in fact, reassured the other believers: “Do not be alarmed…He’s alive,” (Acts 20:10).
Abba had miraculously raised a weary young man from the dead. He met a tired, young believer’s needs.
Then, Eutychus went upstairs, broke bread and ate. He even talked until daylight.
I smile as I read Acts 20. Without a doubt, Abba understands that the spirit is willing but physical strength is limited, (Matthew 26:41).
For this reason, in His great grace, He lifts the weary. He meets the needs of the exhausted.
We have the promise in Isaiah 40: “Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength…”
The operative words here, of course, are “those who wait for the LORD…”
Unfortunately, I struggle in the “waiting.” I generally get myself into a muddle, running here and there.
Of course, in my enthusiastic, well-intentioned hurry, I do cast my net in good places.
I see needs and impulsively jump in … In this way, I resemble Peter.
After the resurrection, Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John and two other others had returned to Galilee.
Although Christ had appeared to them, the disciples were uncertain about what they were to do next.
Peter decided it was time to do something…anything. Just time to make a move.
So, Pete announced to the others, “I am going fishing.”
His natural gifts and training directed him. He returned to the place where he had been called by Christ.
I often wonder if Peter relived memories that day…
Did he remember his initial encounters with Christ? Did he recall the miraculous catch after a night of empty nets and ponder Jesus’s words again, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men,” (Luke 5:10)?
He probably reminisced as he pushed the boat out into the water. And all the more so as his friends joined him.
Fishing seemed a good move. After all, they knew how to do that. And it was comforting to be back in Galilee where it all started.
However, despite their well-intentioned efforts and diligent work, they caught nothing.
They fished all night. They probably dropped their nets in all their favorite spots.
They pursued fishing with purpose and plan. They loved their Savior, and did their work heartily for the LORD.
Even so, their nets came back empty.
Exhausted and discouraged. All that hard work, and seemingly little progress.
Even youths grow weary and tired…But those who wait for the LORD…
As day was breaking, a voice called from the beach: “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?”
Grace knew that. And Grace called. Abba provided direction for that disheveled yet sincere crew of discouraged fisherman.
“Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you will find a catch,” Christ told them.
Those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles…
Peter and his friends cast their nets, and the catch was so great they could not haul it in.
John said, “It is the Lord.” And with renewed strength, Peter swam to shore.
That’s right. Sometimes I grow weary and tired because although I throw my net in good waters, I haven’t clearly heard my Savior’s call.
My full heart spins in frenzied activity. Without the direction of my Savior, I am scattered and eventually grow weary in my work.
In my eagerness, I have launched. But it isn’t long before I realize I’m in over my head.
Grace sees my heart’s desire and yet, also understands my weariness. Grace knows that I can only physically handle so much.
For this reason, Abba lovingly calls, “Cast your net on the right-hand side of the boat…”
I know it’s true: Jesus directs me to the best fishing. And when I wait on Him, He grants strength equal to His call.
Maybe, like me, you have been living life on the freeway. Perhaps, you are also running in too many directions.
Have you bitten off more than you can chew?
Does “Eat, puppy dog, eat?” sum up your days, too?
In an exhausted state, you and I become easily discouraged; understandably, we grow weary and tired.
Yet, Abba deeply loves “Eutychus.” He recognizes our human limitations.
Yes, there is grace for the weary. Restorative grace.
But Abba doesn’t stop there. For those who wait on the Lord, there is also direction.
No more spinning wheels.
That’s right. Peter reminds me that I need to listen for Abba’s call before I cast my net. God’s calls me to the perfect fishing spot.
He has designed a spot just for me. He knows my strengths as well as my limitations.
Truly, Abba gives grace for the physically and emotionally spent; Eutychus found rest and Peter received direction.
Been up fishin’ all night? Sitting on the sill with Eutychus? Or casting that net in every known fishing hole?
Abba promises rest and renewed strength for those who wait on Him. Grace will guide.
In fact, we can be sure that when we cast our nets where Jesus directs, we will “run and not get tired…walk and not become weary,” (Isaiah 40:31).
And the catch will be greater than any we could ever imagine, (Ephesians 3:20).
“He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power,”~ Isaiah 40:29