In my town, there is a state park with a little lake. More of a large pond really, but that’s not important. I’ve fished this lake many times and caught a lot of small little bass. Mostly under 12 inches. But I’ve heard rumors of a monster that lives in that lake. A monster so big, it’s pretty unbelievable. I’ve heard stories of some of the old guys fishing the lake at night and catching him with no witnesses or photos to prove anything. The tales of Walter always seemed too good to be true.
So I was at this lake a week ago, just catching my usual assortment of small little fish when all of a sudden, my rod bent in half and line started screaming off of my reel. I KNEW that it must have been Walter! This was by far the largest fish that I had ever hooked up with at this lake and I had to fight him for a solid 5 minutes to get him to the bank. As I squatted on the rocky bank, I extended my arm to be able to grab him by the lip and it happened. My wimpy 4lb fishing line snapped! The usual quiet me let out a loud scream of shock and disappointment. I could even see the people walking the trail around the lake and other fisherman stop to see what the commotion was about. This was the largest bass that I had ever come close to catching.
Then, a few days later, I went out again. More little fish and as my mind begins to go blank, I feel my lure get hammered! After a couple of minutes, I can tell that this is not the same fish that I had almost caught the other day, but still bigger than anything else I have actually caught. I was extremely careful fighting this fish, not wanting a repeat of a few days before. I carefully fought it, trying hard to steer it away from the rocks and logs that could damage my line. I try to keep my cool and bring this fish in. I squat and reach and get ahold of it’s mouth!! After giving her a moment in the water to recover and for my nerves to calm, I grab my measuring board and gently place her on there. She was 16.5 inches, about 4 inches larger than anything else I have ever caught there. I snap a few pictures and gently place her back in the water to recover and sat with her until she was strong enough to swim away. What a victory!
Another few days go by and I have a day off from work again. There’s a lot to do today. We just got our ducklings and we need a different water dish than we had thought. I need a few things from the store. I have to learn some songs to play at church in a week and a half. I don’t have much time. But I decide to take an hour and just play around.
I get to the lake and it’s 46 degrees. The sky is a beautiful blue, dotted gently with puffy white clouds. It doesn’t look promising to be able to actually catch anything. But then I see a slight chop on the water and a glimmer of hope starts to fill me. The most beautiful days are usually the hardest to catch fish. And it’s about noon, not a great time to actually get anything to bite.
I go out with just 1 rod, a bag of extra plastics and my measuring board. I’m not really out there to catch anything, but just to have some time to commune with God and clear my head a bit, which is my main reason to fish. I’m trying to keep from rushing myself, knowing that I am only taking an hour to cast around. “Just relax and enjoy yourself. Take some time to talk to God and release some of the tension,” I tell myself. I almost immediately kind of zone out and begin my conversation with God. I share my frustrations and anxieties, hopes and desires. I tell God what’s on my heart. Cast after cast, I’m getting little nibbles but not connecting with anything.
“Oh well, it’s beautiful out and I love the air,” and before I can finish that thought, a giant semi truck nails my lure. It immediately begins swimming off in the direction opposite of the current before I can set my hook. I yank the rod and the reel starts screaming as the fish realizes it’s been hooked. It shakes its head violently, darts back and forth and leaps out of the water and my jaw dropped! Again, I start trying to fight this fish carefully. I fight hard to avoid the line catching on anything that could break it. I begin asking myself if I have retied my lure since the last big fish. A million things go through my mind.
Then I squat on the rocks and reach out. I’m able to grab this beast by the lip and lift it out of the water. She is HEAVY. I place her gently on my measuring board and shout in joy when I see that she’s a solid 19 inches. I just broke my record from a few days before. Again, I snapped some pictures and placed her in the water, holding her until she was strong enough to swim off on her own.
“Ok Joe, but what does this have to do with faith?” Great question.
You see, God placed a love of the outdoors and fishing in my heart. It was always kind of there, but I’ve never really taken it too seriously. I would just sort of go when I had some time, fishing maybe a few times each year. Last year, I really began to take it seriously. I have been out on the water at least once a week, even during winter. If there’s wasn’t any ice, I’d be trying to catch something. I began keeping a log and tracking when I caught fish, what the weather was like, the water clarity, the gear I caught it with. I started to really put in some effort.
Most days, I catch a number of small fish, though there have been more trips to the water that have resulted in me not catching anything than I would care to admit. There were days where I wouldn’t get a bite at all and would end up losing several lures. I’d feel frustrated, defeated and like I should just give up trying.
I can relate this to my joining the worship team at church. I didn’t feel like I was good enough. There were so many songs that I struggled to learn and actually play. There were times where I would feel like I shouldn’t have even tried to serve my church like that. There are still those times where I struggle with feeling like I should give up. But I push through it and think about how much my service on the team has helped me over the past couple of years.
I can also look at my faith. There are many times where I feel like maybe God doesn’t notice me. Perhaps I’m not important enough in the big picture. Days come where it feels like nothing is going right and everything is falling apart around me. I’m getting skunked (a term for not catching fish) and losing my lures with nothing to show for it.
But I still go back to my faith. I still read devotions. I still pray. I still put in an effort. There are times where I feel like giving up, but I keep my head up and eyes forward. And then it hits like that big semi that hit my lure. There’s that moment that I can truly feel God in me. I can feel Him using me somehow. I can feel Him leading me and guiding me towards Him.
God needs us to “go to the lake, even when you’re not catching anything.” He needs us to pursue Him, even when we don’t think it will do any good.
I can remember when I was a youth and we would go to a conference or mission trip. We would come back absolutely on fire for God. Our faith would be exploding out of us. For the first week or 2. Soon, it would fizzle and we wouldn’t feel that excitement anymore.
Our faith is like that. We have mountain top, burning bush moments. And we have periods where we feel like Job. All of it is necessary. We can’t always be super close and connected, but God is always working in our lives. He is preparing us for what is ahead. He is guiding us towards something greater than we can imagine.
When He puts a passion in our hearts, He is preparing us for what that will lead to. We may not be prepared to play guitar at church or lead a small bible study, but if that’s what He is calling your towards, He will give you the tools that you need. He will prepare you to do what He has called you to.
How many times have you felt lead to something and not acted on it because you were too scared of not being able to do it? Far too many times for me. How many times have you stepped into what you felt led towards and then felt like you failed?
When I was doing martial arts, an instructor told us that becoming a black belt doesn’t mean you’re a kung fu master. It means that you have learned what not to do and now you can start learning and perfecting what to do.
There are times where you feel like an endeavor has failed, but maybe it really hasn’t. Maybe, you’re just in the learning what not to do phase. We don’t know how to do everything, and it seems like often time God calls us to do something that we may not know much about to begin with. Those “failures” may not be failures at all, but instead be learning experiences. We need to learn some of the things that don’t work so that we can focus more on what really does work. We need to learn to lean on God more and on ourselves less.
Think of Moses. He didn’t want to speak to pharaoh or the Israelite slaves. He was scared of public speech and leadership. Did he get pharaoh to free the Israelite slaves the first time that he went to him? Nope. Not the second or third time either. Each time, He leaned on God and asked for God’s direction. Each time, God lead Moses. And through his faithfulness and persistence, God’s plan was carried out.
Each step of the way, God is preparing you. He’s getting you ready for that day you get to meet Walter. He’s getting you ready for that first small bible study you’re going to lead. He’s getting you ready to step out and be an entrepreneur, parent, mentor, etc. Lean into what God is planning for you and follow Him there. You may to experience some bumps and bruises, but God has your back and He’s walking beside you the whole way.
“Cast your cares on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7