"Then He said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.' They immediately left their nets and followed Him." Matthew 4:19-20
My dad's greatest past time? Fishing. Give him a pole, some bait and a nice spot and we was happy as he could be. It was like paradise for him. Really. I think he could escape everything and all it took was his hand upon a fishing rod. Now, my dad was not just your average fisher. He never cast without pulling something in. Sometimes he caught big fish and others too small to keep, but each one no matter how big gave him a joy that lit up his face.
Just thinking of him out there in a boat brings a smile to my face. He knew all the great spots to fish. He knew what each fish liked to nibble on and he shared his passion with me. I guess I did learn a lot from fishing with dad. I remember the first open cast rod he gave me. I gave it a go. I was so excited. Standing next to my dad and here we are in the heat of evening and he is letting me cast his newest rod. How awesome is that? I set my arm back and released, ready and waiting to see where my treasure of gold would land and just what I would pull in. Well, lets say, I didn't get that far. As soon as I cast out, my whole line got caught up, snagged not only on a tree, but around the pole. I stood there, with my head dropped, knowing I just disappointed my dad. But do you know what he said? "It's okay, Rob. Ya gotta learn how to cast and it takes time." Little did I know, those words would fill me today with words of my own Heavenly Father as He teaches me to cast out and release.
There is more to fishing than throwing out a line. You gotta know your fish. You gotta know your surroundings. You gotta know yourself. Fishing is not only a past time, it's having a passion. It's being able to sit for hours, in silence, waiting. For a young girl like me, that was hard. I wanted to talk. I loved chatting. And me sitting still? Are you kidding? I remember watching my dad in awe as he fished. His tanned skin and his blond hair in the evening sun was a sight to behold. He was strong and confident with that rod in his hand. Now, just what did we do with all those fish? We ate them! My mom was an amazing cook. I can still see her waiting in the kitchen as dad walked in with a stringer of fish. What a grand buffet that lay before us.
After my dad was attacked with cancer, fishing became more and more part of his life. I think he found a peace there in the water that he couldn't find anywhere else. He found solace and some how he found the strength to keep fighting. As my dad battled cancer, his fishing changed. He no longer brought in fish. Oh, he caught them. He caught many, but now he caught and released. He changed his way of seeing real beauty. Oh, he still loved the feel of a rod in his hands. He still cast out, but his perception of the catch changed. He was no longer about bringing them in, it was about the time he would spend casting that rod out. He learned more about himself. He spent time thinking and I am sure he began to question life as he knew it. I remember the last summer my dad fished. After his death it took me a good year before I ever picked up a fishing rod again. Once I did, my Uncle Mickey and my brother in law, Bill took me fishing, along with my boy friend at the time. The tradition of fishing kept going and I found a new meaning in fishing. It was a connection I could keep with my dad. My son now loves to fish. He too, with his blond hair like his grandpa and his tanned skin is a sight to behold.
We get so caught up in what we are going to catch. Even today as we cast our nets out, what is our main goal? Is it who or how many we will catch? Or is it all about the time we spend doing it? Think about it for a while. Just as fishing takes time, so does reaching out and spreading the gospel. You have to know your surroundings, those you are trying to reach and you have to know yourself. We get so caught up in casting out our nets, we forget to look at ourselves and spend time with Christ ourselves. The more time we spend trying to reach others, the more time we should be spending with Christ and opening up our own heart for all He is trying to set before us.
We are to cast out and we are to let Him bring'em in. We are to set the bait if you will, we are to be the example for others. We are to show them there is something to grab hold of. There is a truth waiting for them. We don't have to paint a big picture of God before them. He can do that all on His own. We have to show them He is real in our own lives. If they don't see what we are preaching to the world in our own lives are they really going to believe all we are saying?
You could look at my dad and know he was a fisherman. He talked about fish. You could see in his actions how excited he would become just knowing he was about to embark on a fishing exposition. Do those around us see excitement in our eyes? Do they feel our passion? Are we being real to who we really are? My dad would tell you, you don't need all that fancy stuff to fish. You don't have to spend lots of money to bring in a big catch. He would tell you anyone can fish. You just have to have a passion and be patient. If anything, my dad taught me to be still and wait. The same thing my Heavenly Father is teaching me today.
We seem to get so antsy about bringing in a big fish. It's hard when you know you have a big one on your line and he isn't coming in so easy. I have learned this in life. You cast out that net and you know you have a big one on the line. You fight and battle to bring it in, only to lose it along with the hook. Ah, but that hook is important. It's still there. It's still in that fishes mouth. Something for him to chew on. Something for him to remember. It might just be that next fishermen who brings him in. We gotta learn to let to of the glory of bringing them in and find a peace about casting out. In that casting out we learn more about our self as Christ moves through us reaching others.
I think my dad learned a great deal in catch and release. I think there is a great humility in releasing. You learn the fish isn't yours. Friends, when we are trying to share the gospel with others we must remember the glory belongs to God. He will equip us with all we need. We don't have to have fancy words and be someone we aren't. God will supply us with the words just as He will place in our lives those we are to reach. God sees the whole picture. He sees that huge lake in places we can't see. He sees where all those fish are hiding. He sees those schools of fish just taking their time out there in the water. He knows just what each one needs to come in. He knows what it will take and we have to learn to trust Him. He has perfect timing. Just as the fisherman knows the time of day that is best for fishing and where on the lake your going to catch the big one, God knows His plan for your life. He knows who He wants you to reach and will give you all you need to bring'em in for the glory of God.
"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11