My earliest childhood self awareness was realizing that I could gain attention by making people laugh – a helpful trait in a large family. I like playing with words and sounds and I have a quite a collection of silly verse – usually written for birthdays or events. There’s even a password protected folder entitled Not Politically Correct which I may publish when I get really old to shock my grandchildren. “Grandma!!!”
Years ago my husband gave me a book of verse by Robert Service and I thought it would be fun to attempt a ballad along the lines of “The Cremation of Sam McGee”. (I don’t fish -so I may have some details about the subject wrong.) Apparently Mr. Service could pump this kind of thing out easily and I agree with his assessment – that it’s not really poetry, merely verse. I did add an epilogue full of deep thoughts.
Fish Tales There are fish you should steer clear of; there are some fish you should shun. There are fish that darn near break your heart. This fish was such a one. I knew he was endangered, but my days and nights were haunted with desire that made me disregard the rulebook that I flaunted. I tried every bait and every lure to get him on the hook. I watched the experts carefully; I studied every book. This fish was wise and wily. Why, he made me look the fool. He played me for a sucker in our twenty-year long duel. We fought it out for decades to see who'd be the winner. I knew the day would come when I would have that fish for dinner. 'Cause you all know I don’t back down. Did you ever see me beat by any critter, big or small? I don’t know the word defeat. But this old guy, well I guess to him I'll have to tip my cap. It started at the fishing hole when I woke up from my nap. I’d had a beer or maybe two, to quench a powerful thirst and then I stopped to eat my lunch, a sandwich, liverwurst. My line was dangling in the river, floating kinda lazy. I slept a bit — the sun, the drink, the sandwich made me dazy. Then the reel was spinning wildly, the rod near bent in half. I woke up fast — the fight was on! I shouted out a laugh. I could almost see the picture with this monster at my side, the biggest cod in fifty years and me puffed up with pride. We had us quite a battle but I’d hooked him hard and good, and I reeled him in with strength and skill till I had him where I stood. I just bent down to net him when I heard a dreadful yell. “You touch that fish and you will spend eternity in hell!" "I've worked for three long years on this. The subject of my thesis is The Survival of the Macculochella Ikei Species”. Well I nearly lost my lunch at that. I turned and there she towered – five foot tall and flaming mad. Hey, you guys know I’m no coward. I can stop a bear with a dirty look, a cougar with a knife. (Once or twice I’ve nearly won a battle with my wife.) But in this wee thing I met my match, the reason ain’t too strange. She was holding up a shotgun and I was in her range. She glared at me like the enemy, an evil incubation. “What we got here,” she said to me, ”is an awkward situation.” “I'd hate to have to injure you, but I will unless you vow to leave off fishing the Maccullochella Ikei species NOW." I tried to bargain with her but she simply shook her head. "There ain't no way you can have him – I'd rather see you dead." "You know that they're included on the endangered species list” And I knew my name weren’t on it - so how could I resist? I shook my head at the irony, then I swore to quit the chase. That crazy kid just stood there, with a smile upon her face. It broke my heart to see her with that wild triumphant grin. It broke my heart to know there was a fight I couldn't win. With trembling hands I cut the line but I don't know what to think. I swear as he swished away from me that I saw them share a wink. I wondered if that clever fish had somehow tipped the scales - if there'd been some fishy deal cooked up to make a fella fail. Is it possible, I wondered, for a fish to hatch a plot? Can they ever be that clever - do they have that sort of thought? I cry to I think that I almost won our battle fair and square. I cry to think I've been beat by a girl. You know that just ain't fair. Then it hit me really hard like a shot to my solar plexus – the only fight I ever lost was the battle of the sexes. Do you think that I've gone soft, a sloppy sentimentalist? These tears are for my daughter — that crazed environmentalist.
Speaking of fishing, several of Christ’s disciples were fisherman. Jesus called them from mending their nets and said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men,” Matthew 4:19. Having had my life so transformed at the age of twenty -five, from darkness to light, depression to joy, anxiety to peace, I longed to see others set free from those bleak places. I’d wanted to be that – a fisher of men.
My experience of fishing was that it was mostly a solitary activity. When you went fishing you used bait – something to lure the fish into taking the hook. But though I have shelves full of books on apologetics, (making a case for Chritianity) I am really lousy at arguing a case, almost any case. I get flustered and never say whatever it would take to convince someone of the truth of Christianity. The class clown rarely goes on to be a lawyer.
Lure and bait are not words of integrity – both have implications of trickery – the con, not the real thing.* So imagine my joy when I learned how first century men fished – and I saw this in action in twenty-first century Africa. The men went out at NIGHT with lamps that they hung over the water! If there were fish around they would swim towards the light and into the nets. Fishing that way, pit lamping, is illegal in Canada – it’s hardly sporting when the fish can’t resist the light. Who can? There’s a whole world of difference between just being light – in any given situation – and attempting to ‘hook’ someone with bait.
Jesus called himself the light of the world and these days are every bit as dark as the days he lived in, under Roman occupation. “The people who lived in darkness have seen a great light,” reads Matthew 4:16. Isolation, financial stress, potential economic collapse and violent unrest in much of the world leaves many in a legitimate place of fear and uncertainty. It seems a rational reaction and foolish not to be afraid.
Yet, in God’s word, we are called repeatedly ( at least 300 times) not to fear. God is not surprised by any of this. He is still in control and his plans will not be thwarted. Let’s go about our daily lives and reflect His glory. Let your light shine as the days grow darker. If we shine they will come.
* Writing this made me think of real ‘cons’ and my favorite con-man movies. I lost my copy of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – a movie that made me laugh until I cried. So your freebie for reading this far is a link to ten of the best ever con movies. If lockdown is keeping you home, a good laugh may be just the thing to boost your immune system. But, (and here’s a reverse example of bait and switch) if you are looking for longer lasting joy and peace, I suggest Jesus. He’s the real light in a dark world.