On what must have been the windiest day of the year, we loaded up our jeep with fishing poles, snacks, and chairs. We made our way down to the pond, fishing line whipping in the whirls, tangling into itself. As we shooed the cows enough to make room for our set up, we were met with lots of mooing and huffing as the herd thought we were coming to bring them some feed. They hung around anyway, just in case a Cheetoh made its way to where they stood.
Grey and I worked to rig up his new pole while Harlow readied the rest of the snacks. If you’ve been around here very long, you know we don’t mess around when our food is involved. You also have seen through my stories my children grow from babies to functionally independent kids. *cue the mama tears*
We barely got the line knotted to secure the cork, weight, and hook before Grey cast it out into the rippling pond. He was thrilled to get his first bite – until he realized it was just his hook stuck in the lily pads. Harlow followed suit, casting her line into the choppy waves.
The thing about fishing with children is that there is no fishing.
There’s a lot of tangled up lines, fingers getting pricked by stray hooks, and reeling before the bait ever sinks to the fish’s lair. There are many breaks to eat a snack or follow a trail of ants to the hill they’ve worked hard to construct. This day, our chairs were blown over and cups were rolling into the tall surrounding grasses. Grey’s eyes were constantly drawn to his special fort behind the pond that he has worked tirelessly to create.
But alas, we were determined to use our new poles. In a day before we had kids, Ben and I would spend a whole afternoon walking to our “honey holes” or sputtering around in the John boat to catch the largest number of fish we would later fry up alongside fries and hushpuppies. Each of us would be responsible for our own poles and baiting the hooks ourselves. Now, I don’t even pack my pole, knowing I’ll be literally tied up repairing reels and wiping wormy hands. And bringing home no fish.
I spend my work days around old men. I say that in the most endearing manner. I love “old men sayings”. I picked up a lot of them growing up and being in the vicinity of old men as they worked. I didn’t know what a lot of the sayings meant, but I pocketed them for later use.
So on this windiest of days, the lack of fish was not due to us “not holding our mouths right”.
It was due to the fact that gale force winds were rushing over the water. It was due to the kids insisting we cast our lines in the same spot over and over again, pulling up weeds each time. It was due to the fact that we used whichever lures were most pleasing to us, rather than selecting the bait that would actually attract a fish.
Further, when Harlow “caught” another lily pad, she would try her best to get the line reeled back in, only to stomp her foot and ask why the fish wouldn’t let go. She would continue staring into the turbulent tides and wonder why there was nothing on her hook time after time.
Of course, this prompted me to consider how often we do this. We force our desires rather than seeking God first. Even things that are otherwise good and appropriate, we tend to get started then ask God to come alongside us. Our pastor talked about that this week, and I am astonished at how often this is really the case. We are in such a hurry to get things done and we so want to walk in our calling, that we just jump in feet first.
What would it look like if we prayed first and sought God’s direction for our lives? Do you think we would do things differently?
Would we check the weather before riding out to the pond? Would we consider which bait would be best for the type of fish we were hoping to catch? Would we make sure we had the right attachments in our tackleboxes?
In John 21, the disciples are out fishing in similar conditions as we were. Yall remember these dudes relied on fishing not just for a fish fry, but for survival. Their occupation was literally fishing. So for them to be out in the boat not catching anything meant they were 1. Hungry and 2. Not making any money.
Jesus had already died and risen but had not yet left the earth for good. Can I pause and ponder on how miraculous that in and of itself is? Somehow I missed that growing up – that He didn’t just bounce as soon as he rolled the stone away. He was seen all over interacting with his people before he ascended into heaven. P.S. – that same power lives in us now in case you were feeling a little down on yourself
Anyway, Jesus showed up and saw these fellas struggling out on the water. He casually asked them if they had any fish, to which they replied no. Yall know Jesus asks us rhetorical questions like that, too. Like, Hey Bailey, how’s that thing going that you have been working so hard on and not gaining any traction? As in, Are you tired of struggling yet? Ready to pull out the directions – or better yet – consult the director?
He told them to throw their net on the right side of the boat and they would find some. Now, ya boy has jokes. I’m sure they thought they were throwing the net on the right (i.e. correct) side of the boat. Or really, they probably figured it didn’t matter which side of the boat they tossed it, as they had been doing this since they were big enough to stand in the boat and help their dad and brothers tie the net and get it in the water anyway. But I can picture them this time being like, “Oh yeah. Our bad. We have been throwing it on the left side. Got it.”
I would also like to point out that Jesus said they would “find some”. I do this with my kids. When I know good and well I’ve hidden something they truly desire and make them “discover” it just so I can see the joy on their little faces. This is what happened with Jesus and the disciples. They pulled the net up but couldn’t get it into the boat because there were so many fish in it this time.
At this, they realized the random guy on the shore seemingly mocking them for not having caught anything yet was in fact Jesus. I like how they didn’t recognize him at first. Like those times you and I think we just came up with these amazing ideas all on our own… Or that it was a coincidence that things just so happened to line up in the way they did…
When they saw all the fish and knew there’s no way it was from them finally holding their mouths right, they realized it was Jesus. Won’t he do it?
They looked to the shore and saw He had a fire with fish and was making toast. He beckoned them to come and have breakfast. A man after my own heart. Harlow would fit right in with Him, making sure the snacks were ready for everyone else.
The disciples came and ate with him, not asking all of the who, what, when, where, and why questions we are so easily bogged down by. They sat in his presence and enjoyed the blessings he provided.
That’s the season I’ve been in. Resting in the presence of the Lord. Assured that the things He has orchestrated in my life (even the choppy waters and windblown wanderings) have been on purpose for His purpose. He has given me reprieve on the shore and fed me fish as good as the beloved salmon benedict I had in Las Vegas a few years ago.
I pray that you throw your net on the right side. I know you’ve thrown it on every side of the boat and you’ve even tried different nets. I know you’ve looked up the weather and consulted the almanac. I know you watched the other boats headed to the shore after catching their share while you rowed back in empty handed. Don’t give up. The random dude on the shore is still actively beckoning you to come and eat breakfast with him. And he’s not actually random at all.
My advice going into the new year is simple – pray first. Pray before you make the big decision. Pray before you make the little decision. Pray for room in your mind to focus on the plans God has for your life. Spend some time intentionally seeking the Father. Yall, he draws near to those who draw near to him – whether that’s in a boat or in the office.
Let’s be fishers of men this year.
John 21 1-14 Jesus and the Miraculous Catch of Fish
21 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee.[a] It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3 “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.[c] 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.