An Unplanned Fishing Story

And when [Jesus] had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.
Luke 5:4-6 (ESV)

Last week, I went fishing with my husband, our family friend “Mr. Steve” and our 10-year-old son. It was a muggy evening and, to be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to being out in the heat, what with the bugs and the humidity, getting worm guts on my fingers and waiting for my son – who is not exactly known for his massive reservoir of patience – to catch The Big One.

An Unplanned Fishing StoryPlease don’t get me wrong. I’m a Missouri girl; I grew up going fishing and catching fireflies on hot summer nights, and I still really enjoy being outdoors. But after a solid day of work, I really had to push myself to change into grubby clothes and gear up for an evening away from the house. In fact, I didn’t really gear up for any of that at all. Instead, I chose to drive separately out to the pond where we’d made arrangements to fish. Our destination was on the property of an older woman I’ve known for several years, a friend who has invited us out multiple times for just this sort of outing, and I felt like I needed to “show up,” at least for a while. My plan was to hang around for a bit and then abandon the boys to suffer in the heat and the bugs and come back home. After all, I had my own list of agenda items that hadn’t been marked off, my personal to-do list, and I saw an opportunity to make more progress without either of the Mayer Boys harassing me.

It turns out that our son also had an agenda; he had determined in advance that we were going to catch a ton of fish. “Enough to have a fish fry.” To him, the idea of peacefully standing by the water, merely watching his bobber – well, bob – while taking in nature was not, in fact, “fishing.” No, he envisioned whipping them out of the water at fairly rapid rate.

Our evening started off with a brief visit with our elderly friend, and then we set off for the pond. I did indeed hang out with my son for awhile, threaded several worms onto his hook, and watched as fish expertly slipped them off without getting hooked…and his annoyance grew. And then, I confess, I ran away and left him in his father’s hands. I walked back to the house intending to visit briefly with our host, but we had such a pleasant time talking that, when the boys arrived back at her door nearly two hours later, I had not driven home to work my list. I was still sitting in the chair opposite hers, visiting.

The boys entered her house with a paltry two fish…and an interesting story.

After I’d left the pond, my son persisted in trying to catch enough for a fish fry, but to no avail. At some point, as the evening wore on, he began to complain bitterly to his father about the fact that he had yet to catch a single fish. My husband told me that at this point, he said to our boy, “Buddy, we get to be out on this beautiful evening fishing in this pond. We get to spend time with Mr. Steve, with each other, with Mom and our friend up at the house. We should be grateful for this experience.” He shared that after a few moments of reflection, Eli actually apologized and said, “Dad, you’re right. I am enjoying being out here with you and, even if all we get today is Mr. Steve’s one fish, it’ll be okay.”

Literally, within one minute of expressing his willingness to let go of his dream of hosting a massive fish fry…he caught a fish.

It seems to me that God does this kind of thing in our lives all the time. That evening, while I hadn’t clung to my agenda with the heavy-iron grip my son had – not this time, at least – I didn’t actually get “what I wanted” that evening. When I let go of the idea that I should leave early, what I received was far better – an opportunity to serve my friend simply by being present with her and, in the process, I was greatly enriched as well.

There was a long period of time in my life when I thought I “needed” to be in a romantic relationship with a man to be happy. When I realized that I could change the men in my life, but the unhappiness persisted, God mercifully began to show me that what I wanted was far bigger. I remember the inexplicably-freeing feeling that took root in my heart when I realized that with Jesus in my life, I could be single for the rest of my life, and happy…and at peace.

It was less than a year after I released my agenda to Jesus that I met Warren; we met and married in 12 weeks. (Not something we recommend, though it has turned out quite well in our case.)

Whenever we let go of our expectations for “how things should go,” God always comes in behind that “letting go” process and graciously blesses us. Sometimes that means you get the fish. (Or the man.)

However, this is not some sort of magic way to manipulate God into giving you what you want (Galatians 6:7). Simply pretending you don’t have an idolatrous heart never fools the One who created you and knows your heart better than you do (Jeremiah 17:9). In fact, oftentimes what we receive when we give up our own agendas is the insight to see that what we wanted was not really at all what we truly needed. Or that it wasn’t nearly as necessary as we thought it was.

I thought I needed a free evening at home to get things done. At the end of the day, I still had a list of things to accomplish, and the following day would be busy indeed, but my time with my elderly friend was far more restorative to my soul, and perhaps more God-glorifying (only He really knows) than anything I would have gotten done alone in my house, tapping away at my computer.

God loves us so much that He delights to give us what our souls need most. Himself. Oftentimes, what we have in mind as our greatest need is something that stands in the way of what we most need. And all too often, what we think we want is exactly that thing that’s most destructive to our souls, and “suffering” by living without that thing is what bring us to what we really need – Christ.

But every so often, when we throw ourselves at His feet, in an act of sweet grace and reassurance of His presence, He sends us a fish.

Jesus in Matthew 6:33 (ESV)
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

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