I’m not a fisherman and I don’t fish. I tried it a few times as a kid with limited success. I would try it on backpacking trips with my family or at a local lake with my little brother. I rarely caught anything more than a twig while my dad or brother seemed to catch fish at will. It wasn’t fun for me; it turned into what could have been an enjoyable day out in the wild into a day of frustration. I suppose I was just too goal-oriented. Years ago on a camping trip, Isaac decided that he wanted to fish. We were at a lake and he saw some old men out on a dock with their poles. He wouldn’t leave us alone until we found a cheap fishing pole and tackle box. I took him down to the same lake and we tried our luck down on the dock. We didn’t even see a fish but Isaac had a grand time chatting up the old guys in the process. We didn’t catch anything but Isaac was hooked.
A few years later Micah decided that he wanted to fish too. He began to ask for a fishing pole for Christmas. He was thrilled with the even cheaper pole he unwrapped that December. I had to take both boys out to a local lake that very day. I hooked his lure in the reeds and Micah cried for the loss and begged me to go get it. As I waded out into waist deep water to retrieve it I realized too late that my phone was still in my pocket. I drowned my phone and now Micah was hooked.
A few Summers later Isaac and Micah decided they wanted to do their annual father-son pack trip together. They wanted to camp at a lake and fish. So off we went into the Caribou Wilderness. We hiked to Emerald Lake and found a campsite. I barely had time to pitch the tent, get a fire going and cook us a meal before nightfall. While the boys were disappointed they didn’t get in any fishing, they were so tired that they opted to go to bed before we even had a chance to roast marshmallows.
The next day they fished. All day. I spent my day feeding them and running myself ragged supporting their growing obsession. I tied knots. I unsnagged line. I untangled line (or tried to, anyway). I changed their flies (a friend who is a real fisherman gave us a good supply). We spent the morning at Emerald Lake with not even a nibble. We hiked a mile to another lake and spent the afternoon there with no luck. We did see a couple of lake trout, but they were just teasing us. Micah almost fell off a small cliff and nearly came home with a pierced ear while casting. Both events required some lap time and a few comforting words. Isaac fell and scraped his leg badly. He also needed some comfort along with his first aid.
Back at Emerald lake the boys continued to try their luck while I cooked us a well-deserved meal. Still no luck. Back at camp the boys began their lament. Micah voiced his frustration, “I’m never going to catch a fish!” Isaac determined to try his luck again in the morning before we left. I found myself saying things like, “That’s why it’s called fishing and not catching.” And, “Just enjoy being out here in the wild and don’t get upset if you don’t catch anything.” And, “It doesn’t matter if we didn’t catch anything because we got to be out here together enjoying God’s creation.” And finally, “It’s not about catching fish, it’s about having fun fishing together.”
It hit me hard that I need to listen to my own advice. The time I spend with my children should not be about accomplishing anything. While success is satisfying, the relationships I foster in the process are far more important. Fishing is better than catching when you fish with a friend.
“As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.”
We are fishers of men (young ones) with Jesus. We fish together with him, enjoying our time together, letting him do the catching.