“I got one!”

The fish splashed, flipping on the end of the line. I pulled him in slowly, through grasping weeds and past jutting rocks, then held him at arm’s length in an awkward photo pose. Tom carefully removed the hook and returned the tiny, spiny sunfish to the water’s edge. The fish quivered a moment in the shallows before disappearing into the depths.

All afternoon we cast and reeled, celebrating when we got a bite, quietly watching the water when nothing stirred. Hours of waiting left me plenty of time to contemplate how fishing is the perfect metaphor for living a life of faith.

Fishing teaches patience. To fish, we stand for long hours beside a dark and mysterious pool, endure lashing rain or blistering sun, all for the chance to capture a prize. Faith requires willingness to wait through times of storm and shadow, all to receive the promise of our future reward.

Fishing requires courage. To fish, we board tiny boats and brave towering waves, knowing monsters lurk beneath the murky depths. Faith requires fortitude to step onto the water and face roaring storms and churning seas, knowing God quiets the tempest, and the wind and waves obey him.

Fishing demands wisdom. When we fish, we have to know which catch is big enough to keep and which must be returned to swim another day. Faith understands there is a time to gather and a time to release; and when life becomes hopelessly tangled in strangling weeds and debris, we may have to cut bait and start again with a different lure.

Fishing builds hope. When we cast that fishing line, we know that some days the big ones get away and we turn for home with an empty bucket, planning to try again tomorrow. Faith believes that we will always catch enough to fill our needs, and when we push off from shore and row to the middle of the stream, the blessings often leap into the boat and land, wriggling, at our feet.

“Simon said to him, ‘Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless, at your word, I will let down the net.’ And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking” (Luke 5:5-6).

When we listen to God’s command, trust, obey, and act in faith, we discover that we capture more good things than we ask or expect. When we cast out and accept the gifts that swim our way, we often find our nets filled to overflowing.

How do you stay patient while living in faith? How do you build courage, wisdom, and hope?

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DSCN0173

"I can't do it!"

I scrambled onto the platform and wrapped a tight bear hug around the nearest upright post.

"I want to get down now!"

But behind me two women in harnesses and helmets were already clipped into the safety lines and moving my direction.

"There is nowhere to go but forward," the kid on the platform told me, and I knew he was right. Looking around, I could see no secret stairway to the bottom, no easy elevator ride to the wood chips below.

There is nowhere to go but forward.

I slowly put my left foot onto the tightrope. My left knee wobbled while I lowered my right foot to the wire. I felt that at any second both knees would buckle and send me pitching off the line to dangle helpless and unconscious from my harness.

My friends called to me from the ground far below, "You can do it! Just keep moving!"

I couldn't look down. I kept my eyes up and focused on where I needed to plant the next handhold. I proceeded slowly, and eventually established a certain, shuffling rhythm of placing my hands and moving my feet.

Grip left hand. Grip right hand. Slide left foot. Slide right foot.

Inch by inch I worked my way across the wire to the next platform. I still had three more platforms to go, then the big step and sheer drop toward the crowd of cheering bystanders below.

Inch by sickening inch, I crossed that ropes course.

I often feel I shuffle through life the same way. Trembling and uncertain, fearful that any misstep will cause my complete collapse and tumble into helplessness. But I keep moving forward because backward is never an option.

There is nowhere to go but forward.

The rhythm that worked to get me across the ropes course helps me move through life also.

Keep looking ahead. Looking down or backwards only causes overwhelming vertigo. Keep your eyes focused on where your next move needs to be.

Take small steps. Multiple small steps combine to cover great distances. Keep moving, even inches at a time, and eventually you will get where you need to go.

Cheer someone else. Everyone needs to hear that our friends want us to succeed. Encourage others and let them know you believe in their abilities.

At the final platform, I was clipped onto a belay line and told to jump -- just jump -- and trust the rope to lower me safely to the ground. In the end, we're all told to step -- just step -- and trust that God will deliver us to where we feel safe again.

That final leap was a jarring lurch forward and then a jolting, clumsy free-fall toward the ground. The harness left bruises, but I arrived safely and joined the cheerleaders applauding the next woman in line to jump.

What obstacle course are you inching through today? How are you staying focused while you slide your feet along the wire?

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