Something within fishermen tries to make fishing into a world perfect and apart–I don’t know what it is or where, because sometimes it is in my arms and sometimes in my throat and sometimes nowhere in particular except somewhere deep. Many of us probably would be better fishermen if we did not spend more time watching and waiting for the world to become perfect.
–Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”
I grew up fishing. My dad is a fisherman, as was his father before him. You could say that I am a fisherman, and the son of a fisherman. I have many great memories of being on the lake, river, or a small pond situated on a piece of farmland. My discipleship in the art of fishing began with a Snoopy rod. I’ve since advanced, though not much.
The words above from Norman Maclean are beautiful words. They are also true. Fishing is an art that requires patience, technique, experiential knowledge, and a little luck. Presentation, lure selection, and casting location can all be precise, yet every outing is an adventure that comes with no guarantee of success. You can have partly cloudy skies, clear waters, perfect temperatures, and been the first to hit the water, yet have your first cast come up a tangle of line or your first setting of the hook come up with a old sunken tire. Even when conditions turn out perfect, in fishing perfection is fleeting.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
As Maclean states above, “Many of us would probably be better fishermen if we did not spend more time watching and waiting for the world to become perfect.” I can’t imagine what my life of fishing would have been like if we would have only set out when all conditions were perfect, or only cast our line into the water on those moments when all was just right. If fishing hinged on perfect conditions, it would’ve been a rare day for us to make it into the water. It wasn’t uncommon for my dad and I to arrive at the boat ramp later than he would’ve liked thanks to my desire for a breakfast taquito from Whataburger. Every spring when we first put the boat in the water there was no guarantee the engine would start. Depending on the condition of dad’s aluminum bottom boat, there were seasons in which we would have to gauge the amount of water we were taking on so that we could take a guess concerning how much time we had left on the water before we were in danger of sinking. One of my greatest memories with my dad and Gramps was being on the lake as a light sprinkle set in. Being just a small boy, I thought every raindrop was a fish disturbing the surface of the water. That moment is burned in to my memory.
When I read Maclean’s words I not only thought of my lifetime of fishing, but I thought of my lifetime of discipleship to Jesus. I stopped and pondered the words. I considered how Jesus had called a handful of fishermen to be included among his close knit band of followers, and how for each of these young men a lifetime of fishing experience lent perspective to what Jesus had called them to be and to do. How often might it have been that conditions presented themselves perfect for the type of fishing to which Simon Peter, Andrew, and the brothers Zebedee had been called to by Jesus? I’m guessing not often.
How often have I, as someone who has worked directly and indirectly in church leadership, longed for perfect conditions under which to fish?
- “If only the people were…”
- “If only the community were not so…”
- “If only I were not so busy…”
- “If only I had preached a better sermon or taught a better lesson…”
- “If only the world were not so corrupt…”
Instead of watching and waiting for the world to become perfect, we cast our line in the midst of an imperfect world with the hopeful expectancy which comes through the gospel of Jesus Christ, knowing that the adventure which awaits is one worth the risk of losing our lives in order to find it.
God grant me the grace to face the chaos of the waters.