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Last week while on my stay-at-home vacation, I went fishing.
For billions of people around the world, that news would be a big fat no big deal because it’s done all the time so ho hum, tell me something I don’t know.
However, for me going fishing was a big fat very big deal because it was my first time ever.
At 56, I had never fished before, and for months now I have been wanting to, almost to the point of it being an obsession. I don’t know why I’ve been wanting to fish so badly, only that I have.
So, when a friend of my husband invited me over to fish from her dock I felt like I’d hit the lottery. I’m going fishing! I’m going fishing!
I wanted to tell everyone I saw, but because it’s so commonplace I didn’t. I don’t go around telling strangers, “I ate oatmeal for breakfast.” or “I dusted my furniture today.”
You just don’t make a big deal about ordinary things, except fishing to me was a big deal.
So, I told God.
He knew anyway how much I had been wanting this, and he’s the only one who knows why I’ve wanted this. Like I said, I don’t even know.
We had set the time for 6 p.m. The sky was gray, with thunder rolling in the distance, and sporadic rain drops fell as a group of us went out on the dock on the canal. However, it never rained enough to cancel my fishing lesson.
A young woman who had fished all her life showed me what to do — bait my hook with a chunk of fish or piece of raw bacon. (Who knew fish ate bacon — or hot dogs?)
Next, she showed me how to cast my line, lock in the thing that looks like a spool of plastic string and wait for a bite.
She told me to watch the red plastic ball, the bobber, and look for it to go into the water. When that happens and I feel a tug, that means either a fish is biting or my hook is caught in some underwater plants.
She told me, too, that when I feel a tug to tug back in order to hook the fish before I reel it in.
The first time I did it I tugged too hard and the line came flying out of the water and I nearly hooked my fishing teacher. But after that I got the hang of it and started catching fish — seven of them. Five brim, a gar (which looked like a baby alligator and was not too happy it got caught) and a big catfish that I estimated to have been at least 10 or 37 pounds, although it was probably more like three.
I caught on real quick that fishermen lie when it comes to bragging about their catches.
We fished for about an hour. I held the little fish in my own hands and unhooked the hooks from their mouths and threw them back into the water. I developed a rhythm, casting and reeling and bringing in my empty hook and putting on more bait.
Two small alligators stayed close by, watching, and as the sun started to set and the sky turned pink in places and orange in others, bats flew overhead and some angry sandhill cranes across the canal squawked and fussed.
Two men in a quiet boat rode by, fishing for bass. I thought about maybe catching a bass or two, but I don’t know yet how you know how to fish for a specific species. I’m still learning how not to hook a person sitting next to you.
The catfish was my last fish of the night. It was heavy reeling it in and someone grabbed it with a net and laid it on the grass, belly side up, to get the hook out. I learned to bring a pair of pliers with you when you go fishing because some fish, like the gar and the catfish, have ways of hurting human fingers that get too close to their mouths.
Of the other people fishing with me, I don’t think anyone else caught any. They said I’d found the sweet spot, and I guess I did.
All I know is that earlier this year I asked God if I could go fishing and I went. The weather was perfect — not too hot; it didn’t rain. I didn’t get bit by a single mosquito or alligator. I caught seven fish and didn’t fall in the water.
I can’t be sure, but I think the whole experience made Jesus smile.
Life is sad and difficult, troubling and tragic, but sometimes you hit a sweet spot when God answers your specific prayer and lets you find joy in doing something as extraordinarily ordinary as going fishing for the first time in your life.