"Then he who sat on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new.'"
“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?
We started out at 5 a.m. For the first five miles, the morning felt cool and promising. The sun rose brilliantly over the trees. Birds chirped. We covered ground quickly. After ten miles, the air felt warm and heavy. We began to groan. A slight inline seemed like a steep mountain pass. Our tires dragged. Our progress slowed. After 25 miles, our muscles ached and our breaths grew ragged; but it was too late to turn back. We had the trip more than halfway done. There was nothing to do but go forward and finish.
Twice I made this bike trail ride, from my home to the old railroad bridge that had been converted to a new trail destination. The trip covered 45 round-trip miles, under shady trees, through farmers’ fields, past grain silos and cattle corrals.
When we finally reached our stopping point, we coasted to the rail of the bridge and stood eye-level with birds that flapped above the river bed far below. We snapped pictures, sipped water, stretched our aching quads; then we turned around and headed home. We counted off 45 exhausting, creeping miles before we finally careened into the driveway, kneaded out the cramps, and crashed on the couch for the rest of the evening.
Our lives can often feel like that long bike trail ride. The destination seems far off and mysterious, the trail rough and shadowed. We wonder what lurks around the bend, what we will glimpse through the trees, and how we will ever make it home again.
Along the way I have learned a few lessons to help me enjoy the journey.
Train over time. For weeks we rode the trail, first a mile out, then three, then five. We increased our distance gradually, built our endurance slowly. Preparing for success requires time to grow strong. We get ready for the big rides by completing miles of shorter trips and smaller steps.
Have a partner for the trip. For a long ride, it is important to enlist a buddy to accompany us on the trail. Companions help us if we fall, call encouragement, and give us strength to continue. We need friends to keep us motivated and moving forward.
Plan ahead. For a day-long trip, we packed our handlebar bags with: crackers and cheese, apples and bananas. We filled bottle racks with extra water, carried sunglasses, sweatshirts, bandanas, bandages, gloves, tires pumps, Chapstick, cell phones. A life-long journey is easier when we prepare for the future, consider contingencies, and collect the skills and strengths we may need on the way. If we make a mistake and leave something behind, we remember to take it with us on our next long meandering.
Allow time for rest. Along the trail, we coasted on every downhill grade. We took numerous breaks to stop, stretch, and look around. We enjoyed the swaying trees and whistling birds, explored the shadows and scenic stops along the way. Atop the bridge we paused to look down and ponder the drop below and the distance we had traveled. At the end of the day when the ride was done, we dragged into the familiar living room and collapsed on the welcoming couch. Throughout our lives it is important to take periods of rest to relish our sense of accomplishment and feel grateful for the ground we have covered.
Life is one long road, and we are merely riders. We cannot turn back, but have to keep moving. When we maintain our momentum and keep propelling ourselves forward, we find joy and satisfaction waiting for us at the end of the line.
What do you take with you on your trail? How do you stay motivated to keep moving?
I collect pitchers from garage sales, flea markets, antique malls, thrift stores. I display them on my kitchen cabinets, bookshelves, and dresser top. I prefer ceramic, but have found specimens in delicate china or glass, sturdy stoneware or enameled metal.
I love pitchers because of their simple, graceful shapes and the concept they symbolize. Pitchers hold and serve all manner of good things: fresh milk or cold water, tart lemonade or sweet tea, cut flowers for display or wooden spoons for stirring soup, collected spare coins or secretly saved dollar bills. Pitchers are always ready, waiting to receive what we give them and spill out what they have to share.
“We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
Pitchers remind me that we are all empty vessels waiting to be filled with the blessings God wants to pour into our lives. If we keep open hearts and receptive minds, we will be filled with God’s power and share the good things provided by his Spirit: peace and grace, generosity and forgiveness, joy and acceptance, courage and hope. When we recognize our true purpose, the power of God’s Spirit flows into and through us, only to stream out again and be shared with others.
We come in differing shapes and varying capacities, but we are all designed to receive what God offers and pour out what he gives. God does not intend to keep us displayed on a shelf. He uses us to serve and share his love.
What qualities do you want God to pour into your life? How can you share these gifts with others?
My friend brought her son, Evan, to my house for a visit when he was two years old.
While his mom and I talked, Evan walked to my refrigerator, opened the door, helped himself to a pear, and started munching.
Evan’s mom seemed embarrassed and scolded him for invading my refrigerator, but I laughed.
“He can have a pear if he wants one,” I said. “I buy them for people to eat. They only go to waste if no one opens the door and enjoys them.”
If a two-year-old helps himself to food in my kitchen, I know he feels safe, comfortable, and welcomed in my home.
“Refrigerator privilege” is the trust we feel when we spend a lot of time with someone and know them well. Like a two-year-old who is unafraid to raid the refrigerator, we feel confident to help ourselves. We trust that we are welcomed, and we are free to accept whatever goodies our host has to offer.
My daughter is married and now has a home of her own, but she is always my child. She will always hold a key to my house and refrigerator privilege to help herself to anything in my kitchen. I want every child to feel he or she is invited to share what I provide.
“Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it” (Mark 10:15).
“Refrigerator privilege” in God’s house is the confidence to ask him for anything we need, the trust that God wants to give us all good things, and the freedom to accept the blessings he makes available to us.
No matter how old we become or how mature in our faith, each of us is always God’s child. We will always hold the keys to God’s heart and the privilege to receive all the gifts he has to offer. God wants us to open the door and sample the flavors of the good life he invites us to share.
God has gifts in store for us, just chilling on the shelf, waiting for us to investigate and help ourselves. All the blessings he offers will only go to waste if we never open the door and see what’s inside.
Who has refrigerator privileges in your home? Do you feel you have free access to the blessings God provides?