In twelve days, I will celebrate my sixtieth birthday. Earlier this year, I was dreading birthday number sixty. But I lost thirty pounds and got my fat self into pretty good shape and I can tell you this, I am looking better at sixty than I did ten years ago. I feel better too.
But, still I’ve been around the block once or twice and I’ve had the pre-fishing excitement push adrenaline through my veins a few times and the prospect of walking into the river to chase fish tomorrow should just be another day in the life of an angler.
I guess it should be, but it isn’t. I’m sitting here with the anticipation of four-year old waiting to meet the mythological Santa on Christmas morning. My knee is bouncing in rhythm to some hard rock song playing inside my head.
I’ve noted and forgotten countless things to do before I go. I’m not too worried because I know I have almost got everything I could possibly need and some things I know I’ll never need and a few things I don’t even know what to do with already stowed away in the camper.
I’m a man on a mission.
Luke 5:1 One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. 2 He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. 3 Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.
Jesus noticed Peter and his boat. For Peter, it was a day like any other day, fish, sell the fish (except today they had struck out and had no fish to sell), wash the nets, get everything ready for the next day.
But a crowd of people came along following some dude that was about to get shoved into the lake because everyone was trying to get too close to him.
I guess Peter was not particularly planning on being a boat chauffeur for a teacher while his stomach grumbled for dinner.
Peter had been a man on a mission, too. He had fished and fished, worked hard and worn himself out and was now ready for a big meal, a beer and a nap.
Finally, Jesus finished speaking and sent the people away.
Peter had to feel relief as Jesus wrapped his talk up and he go ready to head for home.
Then Jesus said, “Let’s go fishing!”
“Seriously? Fishing? We’ve been out all night and the fish aren’t anywhere to be found.”
But Peter, being a fisherman, couldn’t resist one more cast.
I’ve had some times when I have been just done with fishing and I’m thinking about going to eat a steak and getting into bed and a buddy says, “Hey! Let’s try that spot over there!”
After a brief moment of “Are you nuts?” I’m ready to give it just one more shot…for a few hours.
Peter let down the nets where Jesus said to. Soon they were afraid!
When I was about three or four, I remember hooking a fish while sitting on a stump at some lake I can barely remember. The rod began to bend and I was afraid as it seemed it would either fly from my hands or pull me into the water.
It was a terrible, wonderful kind of fear. It is one of those things that I can get just a taste of again when a fish starts to prove to be more than I can handle. There’s nothing quite like that moment when everything is hanging in the balance and my line is at the breaking point. Win or lose, those are the moments and the prospects of more of them are what keep me fishing.
Well, Peter had fished a few times and had experienced what every lifelong fisherman had experienced but here he was with Jesus feeling a terrible, wonderful kind of fear!
He was a man on a mission, he was in his element, in his moment, filling boats with more fish than he had ever seen before.
Then it hit him. This was more than boatloads of fish. This was a moment that turned his whole life upside-down. Fishing wasn’t just work or recreation or a way to fill his belly. It was the place he met God.
He met God! What a terrible, wonderful kind of fear he must have felt as he fell to his knees.
Fishing may never be your thing. You may never get all worked up and lose sleep the night before having visions of terrible, wonderful fear. But, every single day, in every single thing we do, we can meet God.
Just like Peter found himself face to face with the Messiah, I can find myself inside the arms of Christ, face to face.
Maybe I need to stop thinking about fishing so much and think more about the fact that I can, at any given moment, be filled with the realization that every cast I make, Jesus is right there with me.
Not just any Jesus, THE Jesus, is right there with me saying, “Let’s go fishing!” or “Let’s tackle this problem” or even “Let me handle it from here”.
I think I like to limit Jesus to being there when I pray and when I go to church or when I tune the radio to a Christian station.
But he is with me always, even till the end of time. Fishing, working, sleeping, always, I can meet him anywhere.
When I go fishing, I look for him. Sure, I love fishing. But, in the midst of what I love, I want him there. I’ve lived a selfish, self-absorbed life for more years than is necessary, more years than is healthy and it brought me to a place where nothing seemed to be enough.
When Jesus is with me, there is a terrible, wonderful kind of fear and awe that fills me.
What could ever be better than taking my best buddy fishing with me?