Saturday, June 30, 2007
The line was taught, my face was serious while my hands furiously reeled in the line. I looked up to see a great clump of seaweed and an empty hook. Those blasted fish stole my bait again! My hands were freezing as I attempted to place the wet slimy minnow on the end of the hook for one more try. I cast rather indelicately, not expecting anything other than a piece of grass to get caught on my hook. After three grueling hours in 30 degree May weather enduring the blasting winds, I was finished. I had envisioned an eventful and enjoyable day with my husband. He was being such a patient teacher while I sat in frustration and boredom freezing my fingers off. He graciously took me home for some hot coffee and a warm breakfast promising that the afternoon would be better.
My husband is an avid fisherman and I had hoped that I would catch the bug too on our “date” together. Instead, I caught nothing and ended up disappointed. I thought this was supposed to be an adventure, but all I did was sit in the boat all day bored to tears. After a repeat experience with ice fishing, my husband tried to explain the lure of fishing to me. It’s all about creating a memory. Patient fisherman will sit for hours with no action for that one moment when they catch the big one worthy of mounting. Even if he caught nothing, the experience was worth it. I finally understood that it wasn’t just about the results, but the joy of interacting with nature. We heard beautiful birds and saw an amazing sunrise on the lake that morning, but I was so focused on my goal, I didn’t appreciate it. A goal of success may always leave me frustrated, so I have changed my goal to be enjoyment of the moment, not worrying about what I catch.
As I ponder my days on the lake, I realize that ministry is a lot like fishing. Jesus made that comparison when he called his disciples fishers of men. I guess I always thought that meant “catchers of men.” Jesus didn’t promise that his disciples would always have success in turning men to Christ. He called them fishermen, which tells me disciples need to enjoy the moment without always worrying about the outcome. Fishermen are by nature patient – they know the value of perseverance and endurance. In this day of immediate gratification, I wonder if I know anything about patience, perseverance or endurance. I want to see my character develop overnight instead I see minute changes year by year. As a fisher of men, I cast out my line sometimes expecting to be rejected. I wonder why I keep fishing when no one seems to be biting. Ministry can be a frustrating experience and often requires a great deal of patience. Measuring success in ministry can also be a dangerous thing. Can I apply something from my fishing experience? I want to enjoy ministry and soak up all that God is doing in His creation surrounding me (those whom He is molding into His image). I want to stop focusing so much on outcomes and live fully in the present.
The Lord is calling me to a ministry of writing. I feel like an inexperienced fisherwoman, fumbling with the hook, making faces at the slimy minnows and regularly coming up empty handed. God often calls us to places where we are uncomfortable. He may even call us to get out the boat and walk on the water with Him. Freelance writing is like cutting off a piece of yourself and using it as lure. When the fish aren’t biting, it’s pretty personal. It may take many casts before an editor will bite. It requires perseverance because that big bite might just be around the next bend in the stream.
I remember when the Lord told the fisherman to try one more time. They were exhausted from fruitless fishing all night long. Regardless, they listened to Jesus and caught an overflowing net of fish. Even though I may feel frustrated at the lack of response to my lures, I will obey the Lord. I will try again. I will persevere. I will not give up. I will keep on fishing for Jesus.