Fishing (Waiting) With my Family
I grew up in South Texas near South Padre Island. As a child, my family went fishing often. I have many fond memories of spending time on the beach with friends and family just waiting for the excitement of the next catch. That’s what I loved most about fishing – it wasn’t the sport itself or the thrill of the catch, it was the waiting.
While waiting, I would sit with my family and listen to them tell stories, laugh at their bad jokes, and sing songs as our fishing lines lay baited in the water. When there weren’t enough rods, I would build sandcastles, explore sand dunes, or look for the elusive sand dollar, skipping over the light blue jelly fish that washed up along the shore. Sometimes, I would just sit and enjoy the breeze as I held onto my fishing rod, two fingers on the nylon line ready to feel a tug.
There were some days where we would wait all day and not catch anything; the fish would swim away with our bait in their bellies. Other days, we had plenty. Occasionally, someone would get a bite and we would all gather around and watch with curiosity and anticipation. Would it be large enough to keep? Would it get away? Would it be a red fish, a rainbow fish or that ugly monster fish I once caught? One of the joys of fishing in the Gulf of Mexico is that the murky waters allow for some mystery in your catch. Although, mystery is not always desirable.
Once, on a deep-sea fishing boat, someone very close to me once thought he caught a large fish because of the great pull on his line. We all gathered around amazed by the fight that this fish was giving him. Our cheers and encouragement immediately ceased when a mid-sized sea turtle surfaced, hooked in the mouth, its heavy shell causing the fishing rod to bend and bob as it struggled to escape. A sacrilegious catch, he immediately unhooked the beautiful creature and placed it back into the ocean.
Another time, a giant pelican swooped in and caught the live shrimp hooked onto the line as bait as it was being cast into the water. Stunned by the hook in his mouth, he flapped vigorously and became entangled in the line. It was a huge ordeal to reel in the massive bird, untangle him, and carefully unhook its beak. [Side note: No joke, after the bird was freed, it was as though he looked back at us and scoffed before he flew away – annoyed by all the fuss.]
In most instances, once the excitement of the catch was over, we would all go back to what we were doing – back to sharing stories, eating sandwiches, and relaxing by the water. I used to think that going fishing was boring (especially since I never seemed to catch much). What I didn’t realize back then was that going fishing for us was never about how many fish were caught, it was more about being together, waiting together.
As I write this, I remember the sound of the ocean waves crashing as noisy seagulls fly overhead. I see images of my mother making sandwiches for everyone, my dad cleaning out a fish, my grandpa calling at me to reel in my first catch, and my cousins all playing by the water. These memories are a gift. These moments were a gift – they are like those rays of sunlight that shine through the clouds. Last year, at Learning to Love the Master, I learned that if I focus so much on the difficult things of my childhood, I tend to forget about the good things… the absolutely great things. I heard God inviting me to remember those rays of sunlight moments so that I can know that there is a God who loves me and loves my family. I am grateful for those experiences with my family, for all the life that happened during all that waiting.