Growing up, we spent a lot of time fishing for walleye. Dad would gas up the Lund boat, and then he’d gently shake us kids awake at dawn, despite my attempts to convince him that all the fish were still sleeping in because it was SUMMER, and all schools were on vacation – including fish schools.
But he was so eager. And he always convinced us that we wouldn’t want to miss out on the fun. So we went. I never regretted those times with Dad.
There was always such a hopefulness when we headed out on those fishing adventures -- leaving a frothy, waterbuggish, zigzag trail behind our boat. You never really knew whether your day would end with lots of fish in the live well – or none at all.
But that didn’t bother Dad too much.
As Dad liked to say, we were yet to find out whether the day would be more about the fishing, or more about the catching.
Dad always said there was a difference between the two, fishing and catching.
Now, mind you, Dad was a fine fisherman, so he was capable of sniffing out a good fishing hole with impressive precision. Which meant that most of the time, there was a lot of actual catching on our boat.
But every so often, we’d sit in one spot for what felt for approximately forever, with nary a bite, while the water slapped against the aluminum sides of the boat. Those days, it was not about the catching at all. Which made for some rather long afternoons for me and my brother, John.
But Dad insisted that even when we weren’t catching, we were still doing the important work of fishing. Dad said that he believed that fishing was the act of being together – and being together was something apart from what we “accomplished” in catching fish.
So we would make up silly songs while the sun hung above us, a gold button fastened to the hard blue of day. Dad would share what he’d learned about life so far. I did my best to take good mental notes for later. And sure, there would be long spells of boredom. We'd talk about fishing lures, and the proper way to set the hook, and the benefits of catch-and-release, and what I wanted to be when I grew up, and how I was going to deal with the drama of eighth grade. Meanwhile, we ate a lot of bologna sandwiches, which we had packed in our Igloo cooler.
Later in the day, the sun would sink down on the other side of the lake. It was time to go home. I was almost always more than ready to go.
But no matter if we had been catching, or simply fishing, our trips always ended the same way.
Before we’d reel in and head home, Dad would remind us to look around.
And then, with one grandiose motion, Dad would sweep an arm out across the dimming horizon, palm up, commanding us to behold the world -- thick with lumbering clouds and tall with leaning trees and dizzy with swooping eagles and crying loons.
“This is the life!” Dad would say, with a smile as wide as the sunset behind him.
Suddenly, I'd feel my heart swell up inside of me, like I could burst for the joy of being here with my dad, who loved me and who wanted me to see what he was seeing, regardless of our performance as fishermen.
Now that I’m older, I understand deep within me what Dad was trying to tell me. He was trying to teach me about what it means to truly be content in this life.
He was saying to me that it mattered most that I live fully in the moments I have been given. It mattered most that I participated in the act of fishing ... of being present. The worth of my life was not what I could accumulate in the live well.
I have been the kind of a woman who has been driven by productivity. I have run on the treadmill of performance and perfection. I've wanted to fill my proverbial live well. I've believed the lie that life was about what a person does, rather than resting in the truth of who she is.
And I thought I've had to do all of that in order to be loved. But God is saying that's not true at all.
God is saying that life is more about the fishing, than the catching.
This is the secret to living loved. It's what happens when your Father shakes us awake every morning, as if to say, "Don’t sleep through this! I’ve got something to show you."
It's what happens when we accept the invitation to get into the boat with Him, not really knowing whether we’ll be catching, or simply fishing.
It's what happens when you spend your day in your Heavenly Father’s presence, and knowing that it’s a good day, regardless of your performance.
This is a no-strings-attached kind of love.
It's what happens when you let go of the pressure of counting: pressure to count the fish, count the money, count the numbers on your bathroom scale, count the failures and successes.
Because here’s what really counts.
Faith counts. And our lives count because of our Savior.
I suspect that every person reading these words feels the pressure of counting, of feeling like you need to do “more” in order to count. We all feel the pressure to get more fish in our proverbial live wells. In our workplaces, homes, and even in our churches we feel the pressure of performance and perfection. We feel the pressure to prove our worth by signing up for another committee, saying yes to another program, getting a better grade, or impressing someone with our accomplishments – all while having really great hair.
But God is saying, there’s a better way. He’s saying, don’t measure your worth by what’s in the live well; measure your worth by the One who’s driving the boat. Watch Him now … He’s sweeping his arm across the horizon of your world, as if to say, “This – THIS! – is the life. Live it. Enjoy it. I made it for you."
This post was inspired by Holley Gerth's incredible new book, You're Loved No Matter What: Freeing Your Heart from the Need to Be Perfect.
Holley writes: "This book isn't about making yourself better. It's about learning to receive what's already yours. It's about knowing you're loved no matter what. It's about rest and grace and living in an entirely new way." In a world where the productivity of "catching fish" has more value than "simply fishing," Holley's book reads like a permission slip toward freedom. Like my dad, she is inviting us to get into the boat with Jesus, and to enjoy the life we've been given, without living up to impossible standards of perfection. Holley is speaking my love language, and I can't recommend this book highly enough. That's why I am hosting a giveaway today.
Giveaway of "You're Loved No Matter What"
You can enter one of two ways:
1 - Leave a comment in the comment box.
2 - Simply tweet this message, and let me know in the comments that you did so! I'll draw a winner this weekend.
Click Here to Tweet: "Go visit @dukeslee for a chance to win @holleygerth's amazing new book "You're Loved No Matter What": http://wp.me/p32XPW-dmt"
Buy "You're Loved No Matter What: Freeing Your Heart from the Need to Be Perfect" by clicking here.
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