Monday is my day off. It is snapper season. Last Monday the weather was crummy. My buddies were either working or had read the weather report. No problem. My boat was gassed, there were plenty of snacks and drinks aboard, and my Labrador retriever, Patmos, is always up for a ride. Did I mention that snapper season is short and opportunities to fish are limited? That explains everything which follows.
I got a late start, so I decided to stop on a spot just three miles out of the pass. By all appearances one would assume that I timed my arrival at my destination to coincide with a pretty significant squall. I threw my marker buoy into three to four foot windswept seas. Undaunted by the driving rain, I donned my orange parka and baited my hook. Dropping it into the gulf I quickly discovered that the current was running at about three or four knots. What followed was 50 minutes of an exercise in futility.
Bobbing up and down in my 22-foot Sea Pro it was hard to keep my marker in sight. The wind was blowing my boat diagonally to the current so that, at any given moment, my bait was being carried in one direction, while my vessel headed for another. Patmos seemed mostly amused as he watched me hold the rod with one hand while I stretched over the seat to try and handle the throttle and wheel with the other. My special spot is pretty small, so my only hope was that I would somehow sweep over it on one of my passes. The idea of holding up was little more than the stuff of dreams. I thought about anchoring, but the prospect of being launched from the bow by a rogue wave while trying to do so made me set that plan aside. Perhaps it was divine intervention, but one nice snapper managed to throw himself onto my hook before all was said and done thereby saving me from having to hang my head in shame and admit to being “skunked."
I write all this because somewhere in the midst of my “sweeps,” as I was fighting to keep my line from being carried into my prop while bouncing up and down as the rain pelted me simultaneously on all sides, I caught myself thinking about the snapper swimming 80 feet beneath me. Their little world was nice and calm. Except perhaps for the one deranged fish which spent himself on my hook, they were certainly in no danger from me. The fact that there was a storm which churned the waters above didn’t cause them the least anxiety. Hmm, maybe there is a gospel truth here.
One predictable thing in life is that life is absolutely unpredictable. No matter who we are, there are always storms to be dealt with which churn up everything around us. The only place where there is peace to be found is in going deep. That is true in the ocean. It is also true in a person. Popular wisdom teaches that when the going gets tough, we learn to reach deep within ourselves to find that place of peace. The Greek stoics taught that approach and it certainly has some advantages over bouncing about in the storm, but the sad fact is that the best of us can’t stay in that “happy place within” for very long. We are all too aware of the winds and waves churning above us.
Scripture offers a better approach.
Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me ... Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:7, 11)
The deep place the Psalmist refers to is not found in us, but in God. When life tosses us about, believers cry out to God. He doesn’t always calm the storm, but he calms us. Our Lord carries us beneath the turmoil of our lives by giving us his peace. It is a peace which nothing else in this world can offer. It comes when we feel ourselves enfolded in his arms, hear him whisper in our ear that he loves us, and know in our “knower” that he will never leave us or forsake us. That peace gives us a sure and certain hope that however things evolve, in the end, all will be well.
The Rev. Mike Hesse is senior pastor of Immanuel Anglican Church in Destin.