It finally happened. That moment when I was sure that I had become all that I desired to be as a man.
Through nearly 30 years of marriage I’ve made quite a few beach trips to the coasts of Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina. One constant in all those trips was the certain presence of an old crusty veteran surf fisherman positioned on the beach. White or gray facial hair. Sun-baked skin. A belly that may be indicative of consistent Pabst Blue Ribbon consumption.
And, of course, a fishing pole or two, seemingly perfectly positioned. Even though you may have never actually witnessed this mysterious figure reeling in a fish, you just knew. After you’d tried your hand and failed at surf fishing, you just knew that this was a guy that you could go to for some reliable fishing advice. Something just looked different about this guy.
This is the man that I’ve wanted to be. Instead of passers by casually asking “are you doing any good today?”, I wanted them to ask me how I was doing what I was doing. Tips. Secrets. Pointers. The guy that looks like he knows what he’s doing.
My first taste of perceived surf fishing status came this past week when a random woman approached me with what I was sure to be a fishing question, opening with, “Sir, you look like you must know something about the ocean……”. But I was disappointed when she finished with, “Do you know what that slimy substance is that’s floating near the top of the water?”. Of course I didn’t know the answer, so I told her that it was most likely sewage discharge from passing ships. Her blank response reminded me of the phrase I hear often from my wife, “Karrick, people don’t really get your sense of humor.”
I pressed on. Over the course of a week, between our four kids and myself, we practically had a line in the water from sunrise to sunset and beyond. And we caught fish. Not big fish, but we did reel in fish consistently all day every day. Between catching fish and having a massive amount of gear spread out around us, people couldn’t help but take notice.
By the end of the week, people were asking questions, both of me and also my oldest son. “What kind of bait are you using?” “What kind of hooks are you using? What size?” “How far out are you casting?” “What kind of fish are those you’re catching?” Yes, I had arrived. The crusty veteran.
There were plenty of other surf fishermen scattered along the beach each day, mostly trying their luck for only 30 minutes to an hour before giving up. Over the course of a week, I paid attention to all the other anglers, both from our spot on the beach and also from the deck on our beach house. I never saw another person bring in a single fish.
One evening I asked my son, “Do you know why nobody else is catching fish?” He shrugged, so I went on. “Because their hooks are too big. Their bait is too big. Because they’re casting out too far. Because they all just want to catch big fish and they end up catching nothing nothing at all. And they give up too soon and walk away.”
We drew attention to ourselves. Why? Consistency. Small things. Constant activity. Always having at least three lines in the water. Always checking our lines to make sure they still had bait. Trying different baits. Casting different distances. Paddling larger baits out into deeper water. Work. And catching lots of fish (even if they were small ones).
Producing fruit that’s visible to others.
Isn’t that what a Christian life is supposed to look like? Bearing fruit. Consistency. Being a follower of Christ is an all day, every day thing. And maybe we need to master the art of catching small fish before we can catch the big ones. Because attempts to only catch the big ones may leave us with empty results, the frustrations of our shortcomings, and in the sad spot of giving up and just doing nothing instead.
Maybe it’s a misconception or just a poor path to set out on, to believe that we can simply tell people that they need Jesus, invite them to church, and things will just fall into place for salvation. Maybe instead we need to address our neglect of the finer points of becoming fishers of men.
A good place to start is consistent, prayerful study of God’s word. Beyond that, every part of our life should reflect authenticity and an honest pursuit of the character of Christ. Because we know that we are always being watched by someone, we have to work to becoming a person that’s worth watching and listening to. And I think this is where mastering the art of catching small fish comes in.
So what does that look like? It looks like telling the truth at all times, even if the truth makes us look bad. Loving the people that are difficult to love. Forgiving when forgiveness doesn’t come easy. Actively seeking ways to help and serve others…..being selfless and generous. Being patient with those who try our patience. Controlling our tongues…..ALWAYS. Admitting to our faults and mistakes and apologizing when necessary. Being a peacemaker. Being a great listener. Keeping our pride and anger under control. Treating others with dignity and respect. Not being a blamer or excuse maker. Being willing to do difficult things when the right things (as defined by God) aren’t the easiest things.
This isn’t Sunday morning stuff. This is all day every day type of stuff. This is authentic Christianity. This is what will make others take notice. Consistently hauling in the small fish. Showing the world that there’s something different about us. Standing out in the crowd.
“There’s something different about him (or her). What is it?”
Lead a life that causes people to ask this question about you. Because the answer needs to be Jesus. And when people start asking that question about us, we may finally be ready to catch the biggest of fish.