There were many things different about our vacation this year but one of them stands out from the rest.
For years the lack of fish in our lake in Canada has been a mystery. Many epic folktales are shared around campfires regarding local fisherman rowing across still waters at daybreak and dusk, returning with fresh catch from secret nooks. Only a special few from the area know the coveted fishing spots, so the story goes.
My kids grew up learning how to cast from the dock and boats without expecting any nibbles on their hooks. But hope prevails for decades.
This year, my son and his three cousins are fueled by fresh determination. Daily, they paddle from the lake to the mouth of the Bonnechere River, positioning canoes loaded with bait, empty pales and expectancy. Casting their lines with worms on the ends of hooks, fingernails full of dirt; they sit, wait, talk, reel in and repeat the process, for hours.
One day, while sunning on shore, I spot the canoes on the horizon skimming slowly toward home. I alert the adults. We smile and comment on their childish conviction; fishing poles upright like empty sails between them.
Sliding the bow onto shore, kneecaps and arms sunburned, they climb out carrying buckets full of water, faces beaming with idealism. And they surprise generations of storytellers.
“What in the world has happened to the lake,” is a phrase repeated often this year on vacation, by aunts and uncles who have been cottaging for decades.
And then something even more surprising happens.
After releasing the fish back into the water, they practice casting. And in front of a captive audience of family members, Jordan pulls a fish out of the lake, flapping on the beach.
And one by one, each of the boys repeat the miracle.
“They are catching the same fish they threw back,” declares H from the gazebo.
“No, these fish are different, bigger and another color,” I yell back to him while inspecting.
And sure enough, as neighbors lean over the buckets to witness the marvel for themselves, mouths, young and old, hang open in astonishment. Catching fish in this lake is an anomaly. And right in front of our cottage – a miracle.
At dusk, those same neighbors paddle toward the river with canoes full of tackle and fishing rods.
When you allow the way the church has failed you to become your identity, you turn into a complacent fisherman void of expectancy. And your disenfranchised platform can dictate how the next generation perceives fishing from the lake in your community.
Becoming a successful fisherman for the Kingdom isn’t a secret only reserved for a special group. The only requirement is passion for Jesus and a desire to practice presence with the fish God gives you.
A few days later, our cousin Noah from Uganda, a former chef, visits the cottage with his family. Under a starry sky, we sit on lawn chairs around a campfire, swatting black flies at our ankles. While young hands pull toasty marshmallows off the ends of roasting forks, laughter erupts through waves of storytelling. And Noah promises pleading boys he will take them fishing in a new spot.
The next morning, they push off before the house stirs from sleep. And return with several fish; two large enough to keep.
Huddling on the beach at dusk, Noah teaches the boys how to clean and fillet fish properly. then cook them over a campfire. With each succulent bite of fish, they want their teacher to taste some of it.
“Oh no, that is for the boys, I want them to enjoy it,” he smiles, leaning back in his chair beside the fire.
People are hungry for hope, for answers to their doubts, failures and questions. They long for you to feed them Jesus, even though they haven’t tasted his goodness yet.
The lost aren’t as interested in how the church failed you as much as your willingness to climb into the boat with them. Help someone navigate through the mystery by sharing redemption and wait patiently with them for the answers.
You can make the expedition an adventure or a reason to stop fishing.