The alarm went off at 4 a.m. As usual, I was already waiting for it. That’s what happens when I’m looking forward to a fishing trip. The truck, trailer, and boat were all ready to go so that we could head out in to the Pacific before sunrise. We would float into what we call the “grey.”
That day we were going for the elusive white sea bass, or as some call them, the “ghost fish.” I’ve only ever caught two, both only about 15 pounds. Maybe today I’d get my third and biggest one? My buddy, John, and I are both in AA (Angler’s Anonymous), a local club of fishing addicts. We’ve spent lots of time and money chasing fish, studying fish, and updating our arsenal of tackle and equipment.
It was a beautiful, clear day. We turned off our cell phones as we motored away from the Morro Bay harbor and sped into the ocean’s swell. As the salt spray baptized our faces we performed our whooping ritual, breathing in the salt air and letting out a silly, loud war whoop like two little boys playing. We were released from the mainland, our daily cares and concerns, and we became seamen—adventurers on a quest.
We moved down the coast a few miles until we found a “nest” of squid under the boat using the fish finder. We anchored down over them knowing that this is where sea bass may come looking for breakfast. We “made bait” by catching a tank full of squid and put them on our lines as the sun peeked over the mountains. We waited and watched. Will the ghost fish appear today?
We talked. We talked about our lives, our families, our futures. We told our hunting and fishing stories to one another. Sometimes we didn’t talk for a while; instead we just sat and soaked up a new day on the ocean.
A pod of whales appeared close enough to enjoy and as we listened to the sound of their spouting, breaching, and falling back down in an explosion of water. Millions of tiny bait fish came to the surface being chased by sea lions and birds. We watched the birds dive until one got hooked on one of our squid baits. We were forced to reel it in and remove the hook while it thrashed and pecked our hands. Meanwhile we just laughed and yelled at each other.
No sea bass showed up. We decided to try a different spot. We shared some food and drinks from what John calls his “feed bag.” The day unfolded and the conditions changed. Always optimistic, we stuck it out till late afternoon thinking that the big one might be coming.
By the time I got home that evening, washed down the boat and put it away, it was almost dark. I walked into the house and am greeted by “the best catch of my life.” I tell her the fishing was great—the catching wasn’t.
As the song says: “The most important part of fishing ain’t the fish but the fishing.” Another fisherman wrote: “Half the fun of going is getting there.”
We didn’t find the ghost fish but, in the process of looking for him, we found lots of other things. We “fished” in each other’s hearts. We caught and made some great memories. We took mental pictures of whales breeching and dawn breaking. We were awed at God’s creation and thankful for the privilege of playing in it.
Someone once said, “God loves participles.” Lots of significant things happen in the biblical narrative “as they were going.” Lots of teaching happens when a parent is “going on the way” with his or her child. Even what is known as the “great commission” references “as you are going” rather than “go.”
Sometimes in life I become so focused on the “product” (end result) that I miss the blessings of the “process.” I become more focused on my “performance” or my agenda, than resting and enjoying the rhythm of life that the perfect performance of Jesus offers me. God is often doing surprising and significant things in the “participles” of our lives. Lord help me slow down, play in your creation, live in the moment—and also—it would be nice to catch another sea bass someday!