When I was younger, I thought I could stand on the shore and fish for meaning, one hook at a time, careful to choose only the bait I had been taught was correct.
I caught so little, I almost starved. I couldn't live that way, so I tried fishing from a boat I borrowed from my father. I was in debt to him, but I thought, if I worked hard all my life, maybe I could pay it off.
Still, I stayed close to the shore. Dangerous storms moved across the deep places of the lake. Who knew what was out there.
I kept choosing my bait according to what I was taught. I joined this group of fisherman and that group of fisherman. I tried a different boat, I asked for advice. I wasn't catching enough. I had this hunger that wasn't being filled.
By choosing the bait, I was rigging the game. I was sitting in my little boat, all spic and span, looking only for a certain type of answer, the one right fish.
And when I caught it, I was all, "Ha! I knew it. There are only rainbow trout in this lake. Rainbow trout are all that is good."
But when I was a little girl, I had caught a goldfish. I couldn't keep it; I had to throw it back, but I never forgot it. I never forgot that the lake held mysteries.
Other people sometimes caught goldfish. Sometimes they caught larger, more terrible looking fish. No one kept them. They weren't sactioned by the fishing guild. They couldn't be bought or sold. They were unclean and couldn't be eaten.
It was a life of hard labor. It was discouraging. I spent a lot of time at the beach, tending to my equipment.
I thought, if I can just keep it clean, the lines strong, if I can just develop a good routine, good clean fishing habits, then I'll catch more.
I thought, I just have to find an experienced fishing mentor, or the right spot or get up a little earlier, then I might finally catch enough.
Then one day, I was squatting on the beach, trying once more to fix the net, and someone called my name. A Man was standing there, a perfectly ordinary looking Man.
He knelt down beside me; He whispered something into my ear.
If you ever meet this Man, and He asks to borrow your boat, don’t say yes, if you want to keep it. If you value your routine, your easy answers, don't listen to Him.
First of all, this Man will stand in your boat and say deceptively simple things to crowds of people you don’t know. You yourself will hardly understand what He is saying.
But that’s not all. After He finished speaking to the crowd, He turned and look at me. He told me to sail away from the shore, away from the places I had known all my life.
I could see far out over the lake, where the water glinted and the wind moved and fear ran cold up my spine, but I did as He asked.
I had to obey Him; all my inexpressible longing, all my hunger was running into Him. It’s the same for flowers turning their faces to the sun.
When I drew my patched net up from the opaque and moving water, the catch was so large that the woven strands were unravelling and the worn wooden boards were loosening.
I stood in rising water, watching my livelihood, my life long debt, fall apart under the weight of those scattering silver scales, those thousand liquid eyes, the fragile gills, that strange and living heap of water and light and life.
I couldn't even begin to sort through everything given to me in good measure, pressed down, overflowing.
In terror, I fell on my knees before God; I closed my eyes. I was choking on the water. I pleaded with Him.
I said, "Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful woman, blind, small, and everything is broken now. I see that Your thoughts are nothing like my thoughts, and Your ways are far beyond anything I could ever imagine."
And He said to me, "Do not be afraid."
At the sound of His voice, I opened my eyes. The spray was in my eyes and everything was full of light, the waters above and the waters below were teeming with life and I wasn't afraid anymore.
I knew then that the lake was God and we are the fish. He is fishing for us, not the other way around. When our boat falls apart, we are plunged into God.
I no longer had to try and pull meaning out of context, because I was living in the context; in Him I lived and moved and had my being.
Until God stepped into my life, I clung to my private religion as if it were a thin wooden shell separating myself from the terrifying mystery and reality of Him.
I said, "Here are the boundaries of God. Here is what is clean and here is what is unclean. Here is the right way and the right method. This is what my father did and his father before him.”
When He walked over the shore to me that day, I heard the crunch of sand beneath His feet. When He knelt down, this is what He whispered into my ear. He said:
"Listen, My little one,
My daughter hidden away in poverty; listen.
Forget your father and your father's house.
Don't remember the former things,
the things of old:
I make all things new.
I have called you by name, you are Mine;
Follow Me out into the deep.
I am the Way and the Truth and your Life.
You don't need your boat anymore, you have Me."
When I was younger, I stood on the shore and fished for meaning, but now I'm rolling in the deep.