Last weekend, I went salmon fishing on the ocean.
However, I can’t say I really fished. I spent most of the time hugging the rail contributing to the caloric intake of the fish. Could this be what is meant by the Biblical admonition to “cast your bread upon the water?”
Perhaps not, but it was adding a great deal to my prayer life, as I was constantly moaning, “Please, God, please.”
During those “prayers,” I had many biblical recollections of Jesus. I remembered reading about Jesus calming the waves on the Sea of Galilee. I recalled another story about him walking across the sea. Yet in still another recollection, I could hear Jesus telling the disciples to cast their net on the opposite side of the boat so as to help them catch their limit.
As I bent over the railing watching the waves rise to meet the ever-varying distance to my mouth, I thought of these miracles and voiced a prayer in reminder of each of them.
“Oh, God,” I prayed, “Could you please calm these winds? Or at least could you show me how to walk home?” I begged God to “give us our limit so that we might quickly return to shore.”
Nothing happened. The fish weren’t jumping in the boat and there was no way I was walking home. The waves sustained their strength — and my stomach sustained its weakness.
Yet, despite the unanswered prayers, I kept my faith. After all, what kind of faith would I have that it could be jettisoned over the railing of a ship by a temporary illness?
The irony of my struggle was that I had planned my fishing excursion as a stress-reliever from the past month when I’d seen too many families experience an erosion of faith.
It had been a horrible month in which I’d watched the faith of more than one family disintegrate before my eyes. And I don’t mind telling you, getting that close to imploding faith can be hazardous to your own faith.
When you get close enough to watch someone hold the hand of their dying child or spouse, and you can see the anger color their grieving eyes, you begin to wonder if you might become collateral damage.
I watch the explosion come very quickly as I hear folks enumerate the things they’ve done for God. I hear them ask God why he isn’t performing in a prescribed manner. I hear in their angry voices, a pleading to know why God has broken their imagined contract.
The unstated contract is one in which “the god of the first part agrees to bless, expand and replenish the worshipper of the second part if said worshipper agrees to all conditions implied therein.”
This contractual faith is something that will often resemble a life insurance policy as it assumes that strong faith will be free of calamity and suffering. The problem is that those who buy into that kind of contract will usually see their faith do a header deep into the hard ground of reality.
Out on that boat, I was humbly reminded that a contractual faith will always be shattered by reality. While we may hope for a faith that defends us or keeps us from harm, in the midst of waves that threaten to sicken us with terror, we’d best choose to pray for a competent faith that sustains us and keeps us afloat.
In the meantime, on the other side of the boat, God seemed to be answering my son’s prayer. Having caught his limit, his simple prayer went something like, “God, help me catch my dad’s limit, too.”