I hate fish!
Actually, that’s not quite true. I have a kind of love-hate relationship with fish. I love to eat them. I hate to catch them.
It started years ago when, as a youth, I went to visit “Tich” Edwards who was (at that time) the principal cornetist of the then internationally famous Sparkhill (Birmingham, UK) Salvation Army corps band. He took me with his two sons to go fishing at a nearby river. Having helped me bait my hook and cast the line into the water, he left me there for about two hours. When he returned, the worm was gone. I had not seen even a ripple on the water, and worse…I had caught no fish. The exercise was repeated several times during the day with the same fruitless (fishless?) result.
Since then, I have fished only once and that was in Newfoundland. I had been visiting to lecture and a Canadian officer asked if I’d like to go for a skiddoo ride. Not at that time knowing what a skiddoo was, I said, “Yes.” We set off on this snowmobile across the frozen waste, up and down and in and out of trees. I was hugging the guy in front, or trying to since he had a rather large girth, and I didn’t realize at first that there were handles to hang on to. After nearly getting thrown off several times, we arrived at a log cabin aside a frozen lake to meet a group of other people who announced we should go fishing. Off we went onto the frozen water…
They drilled a hole in the ice and a member of the group took a piece of string, tied a hook with bait on the end and dropped it into the hole. Almost immediately, there was a large fish on the hook. They left me by that hole and went off to drill others. Hours later, they all had fish. Me? Nothing!
I had other “brushes” with fish. My father was the owner of a couple of fish and chips shops in my hometown and I would help him in those shops from time to time, primarily chipping potatoes. My dad did the more difficult preparatory work, since he skinned and prepared the fish. Many a time he had bleeding hands from skinning catfish, which was all we could get at one time during World War II. They were smelly, slimy and sharp-spined fish.
Later in life I became an environmental health officer and, when studying for a fish inspection exam, had to recognize and name hundreds of fish by sight. I could name them, but I still couldn’t catch them!
Luke 5: 1-11 records an encounter between the disciples and Jesus. They had toiled all night and caught no fish, when along came a carpenter (of all people!) and advised those expert fishermen to try letting their nets down on the other side of the boat. They did and caught two boatloads. (Note, not just a few fish, or even a few more, but twice the catch they expected. God’s math is multiplication, not addition see the parable of the talents where those who doubled the investment were rewarded. That was the concept behind MISSION2000’s goals of doubling.) Jesus went on to tell the disciples that in the future they would be fishers of men.
I have a copy of the very challenging A Parable on Fishless Fishermen by John M. Drescher. In it he tells of a group of fishermen who met frequently to talk about their call to fish, the abundance of fish, and how they might go about fishing….how they studied newer and better means of fishing and sought better definitions of fishing.
Drescher goes on to say how boards and committees were formed to promote fishing and teach people how to fish, setting up large teaching centers. He tells of a fisherman who actually caught a fish once. He was honored and scheduled to visit all the other fishing centers to tell how he did it, so he quit fishing to tell about the experience.
Drescher ends the parable by saying, “Imagine how hurt some were when one day a person suggested that those who don’t catch fish were really not fishermen, no matter how much they claimed to be. Yet it did sound correct. Is a person a fisherman if year after year he never catches a fish? Is one following if he isn’t fishing?”