“Grab your fishing rods and extra hooks. I’ve got the worms.” Our neighborhood fishing tournament was starting in a few minutes.
Walking down the street my son inspects his fishing rod. “Mom, I don’t have any fishing line. I probably can’t fish.”
“We’ll ask someone there. I’m sure someone has extra fishing line. Isn’t it great our neighborhood has lakes? You can fish whenever you want.”
“Do you remember in the spring, Mom, when I didn’t catch a fish the whole tournament? At the last minute you prayed and I caught a fish. It was so fun that I got a medal for the last fish caught.” My youngest brings up the story every time we talk about God answering prayer.
We were standing on the bank of the lake in the spring. Tears poured down my daughter’s face. “Everyone’s caught a fish except me. I’m never going to catch a fish.”
“Have you asked God to give you a fish?”
“No. I’m too busy fishing. Now it’s almost over and I didn’t even catch one fish.”
“I’ll pray for you. Dear Jesus, you know where all the fish in the lake are. You can see them right now. Will you please send one to my sweet daughter’s line? She really wants to catch a fish.”
Hardly a second passed. “Mom, I got one! I can feel it. God sent a fish! I’m catching a fish.”
“Reel it in slowly. Don’t let it get away. Yes, you did it!”
She stands smiling beside the lake holding her fish for my camera. “I caught one. I really caught a fish.”
“Do you see how God answered our prayer? He sent a fish at just the right time. He wants us to ask Him for what we want or need. I’m so happy for you.”
Fall leaves are now glowing red in the afternoon sunlight. Neighbors already line the lakes throwing out their lines in hopes of catching the big one. We wave, but don’t stop to talk. Weighed down with fishing equipment, we keep walking down the leave strewn paths.
Finding an open area the two girls each gently place a squiggly worm on their hooks. Their laughter carries across the open water welcoming more neighbors. Swinging their rods behind them they cast the line long into the water. Only a bobber on the end reveals the hook’s secret destination.
“Do you have any fishing line? A neighbor stands fishing with a large tackle box planted firmly behind him. Among the plethora of objects there must be some line for my son.
“I think so. Just look inside. If there is, you are welcome to use it. I don’t know how to put it on so you’ll have to ask someone else.”
Right on top there is a big roll of line. “I found some. We’ll bring it back.”
My son and I walk away searching for another helpful neighbor who knows how to secure this clear, white line on his reel. “You’re going to be able to fish now. Isn’t it great he let you borrow his line? I’m sure you’ll catch some fish.”
A neighbor sits texting and watching his children fish. “I can help you, but buddy we’re going to have to do it together.” Quietly obeying my son walks back and forth as our kind neighbor winds the line on the reel. Up and back my son who seemingly yesterday was just a small boy walks in a straight pattern.
“Thank you.” He says almost whispering knowing it’s right to say, but saying it still isn’t always easy.
“I hope it works. Catch lots of fish!”
“Bye, Mom. I’m going to fish.” My children don’t need me every minute anymore. Always a younger one was next in line begging for my help. They’re all big enough to stand alone. They stand secure with friends putting worms on hooks, casting into the water and pulling up hungry fish.
Sitting with the other moms I allow their independence to gather strength in this safe place. I hear the two older ones across the water. I know their voices among all the others; they are mine. “I caught one. Look at it! I think it’s a brim.”
Rounding the corner they come running to show me their prize. Standing alone is exhilarating, but it’s always comforting to hear me say, “Great job. You caught a beautiful fish.”
“Let me just take one picture.” Holding up their catch with an exploding smile because they know they’re loved.
I haven’t heard a patter of small feet from my youngest all afternoon. She’s staying planted somewhere hidden among the bushes. Knowing her tenacious spirit I can only imagine a tired little arm throwing the line and trying to will it to bring in a fish.
My husband makes the rounds watching our children from far enough away to not intrude on their every widening need for space.
“Five more minutes. The tournament will end in five minutes.”
“It’s happening again. My little one didn’t catch a fish. I better go find her.” My thoughts rush through my mind as I walk slowly around the lakes.
Her face flushed with excitement and legs carrying her down the path she runs to me. “I caught one. I caught a fish!”
Smiling and shaking his head my husband smiles. “We prayed one in again. It came so fast after we prayed.”
“Mom, God sent me a fish again. We prayed and it was right there. Can you believe it happened again?”
“Sweetheart, God wants you to really know that He can do anything. He could let you catch a fish earlier, but He wants you to know how powerful He is. There isn’t anything that is too hard for God. I hope you will never forget how He gave you a fish.”
Many years ago there were fishermen who found out about a God who could give fish. They were rugged men whose lives were completely transformed in three years. Their Lord had now risen from the dead, but their lives seemed to be drifting back to boredom.
Not wanting to just sit on the beach Peter stood up. “I’m going fishing.” His friends jumped up excited they finally had something to do. “We’re coming with you.” They spent all night on the Sea of Tiberias casting their nets into the murky water. Seasoned fishermen who knew the perfect methods and conditions welcomed the morning light with empty nets.
Peering into the dusky light they saw a man standing on the shore. It seemed strange for someone to be alone on the beach at such an early hour.
Calling to the men through the haze, He asked a question with a seemingly obvious answer. “Haven’t you caught any fish?” “No.” A hint of frustration or sarcasm probably laced the word. The long hours taking a toll on their weather-beaten bodies and minds.
“Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” Words full of meaning and power. This voice had calmed the waves, healed a little girl from miles away and awoken Lazarus from a deadly sleep. Still the men wondered about the stranger shouting directions to those who had spent a lifetime churning the waters.
Plunging the net into the deep water on the right side of the boat the men pulled lightly expecting emptiness. They tugged without the net budging with their minds probably thinking it must be caught on a jagged rock. Working together they pulled against the weight until suddenly they saw fish packed inside the burdened net.
“It is the Lord.” Peter jumping out of the water ran to the beach. The other men sailed in the boat straining to pull the net with them. Only Jesus could take a frustrating night of emptiness and bring more fish than the net could carry. The Creator whose words formed fish can call the fish come on a particular side of a boat at a certain time. Is anything too difficult for Him?
When the rough group made it on shore a fire was burning with fish on it. Jesus had already caught fish before He ever called out into the chill of the morning. He doesn’t need nets or rods. He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the Mighty One. Jesus knows how to create something out of nothing.
“Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” Jesus didn’t need their fish, but He showed them compassion and love by taking what they could give.
It was just two simple fishing tournaments where a little girl couldn’t catch fish all afternoon. God didn’t bring the fish because just maybe He wanted His precious child to learn He really wants to hear her voice and He is the Provider.
This girl’s mother needs to know this every day of my life. I need to know nothing is too difficult for my Father. Sometimes I just look at my empty nets of life rather than looking at the Master who already holds what my heart yearns for. I need to fully grasp the magnitude of His power and might.
Jesus is able to do far more than I can ask or imagine.
Copyright © words and photographs Jane Carole Stein