WAYPOINTS: Keep going when disappointment strikes

The Rev. Mike Hesse
The Rev. Mike Hesse

I have enjoyed fishing pretty much all of my life. I am not a great fisherman, but I am a decent one. As such, I have become accustomed to returning to the dock with fish in the cooler. And what I fail to have in the skill category, I more than make up for in enthusiasm.

So it was that two weeks ago I invited a clergy friend of mine to accompany me on a quest for red snapper. I exuded both confidence and enthusiasm as we headed out through Destin Pass and into the Gulf. The first minor setback occurred when the expected calm seas were not, well, very calm. The water was not particularly rough, but there was no rhyme or reason to the wave pattern. As a result, we just slowly bobbed our way for an hour and a half to my favorite sweet spot.

Not to worry. I figured we would just let our lines down like always, catch our limit of four snappers, and head home. Fast. Easy. Triumphant!

Alas, after twenty minutes we had caught exactly — nothing, nada, zip. Slightly chastened but undaunted I headed for another spot which consistently produces for me. After considerable effort we did manage to reel in one snapper which was so small I swear I could hear his mother crying, “Don’t take my baby!” We sent him home and then tried another spot, then another, and another — and with each move I could feel my enthusiasm backing toward the door even as despair crept closer.

After fishing about a dozen of my favorite places, all we managed to catch was one red snapper, one cubera snapper and a king mackerel which hit our bottom rig as it descended.

Last week my daughter and son-in-law arrived for a visit with two of our grandsons in tow. Undaunted, I invited them to accompany me in search of some of the snapper which had eluded me on my previous trip. I was very enthusiastic, though slightly less confident, as I motored west toward some more great spots. Eight hours later my family was begging me to take them home. Total catch of the day: one king mackerel caught, once again, accidently. So there it is out on the table for all to see. Great enthusiasm, strong potential, hard fishing, long hours — and almost no return for my efforts!

That leaves me with two choices. I can back off and save myself time, energy and money by heading to Sexton’s Seafood and enjoy the fruits of another’s labors. Or I can shake off the disappointment, learn some new techniques, look for some different promising bottom spots and try again, and again, and again. Because there is real joy in pulling a nice fish over the side of my boat!

I got to thinking about this when I was re-reading Jesus’ call to two fishermen, Simon and Andrew, who were casting their nets into the Sea of Galilee. “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19) Tentatively at first, but with increasing confidence as time passed, they joined 10 others as Jesus’ disciples. By the time Pentecost arrived and with it the power of the Holy Spirit, they launched forth with unbridled enthusiasm to win the world for Christ. Clearly they enjoyed some fine successes, but have you given much thought to the times when, in spite of their very best efforts, they failed? Great enthusiasm, strong potential, hard fishing, long hours — and almost no return for their efforts!

The Jewish authorities did not appreciate their message and pushed back hard. The Romans generally saw them as rebels for not bending their knees to the emperor and did not hesitate to bend a rod on their backs. That surely left them with two choices. They could back off and save themselves, literally. Or they could shake the dust off their heels when their proclamation of the gospel was rebuffed and redouble their efforts in another location with different people.

Simon, Andrew and the other disciples chose the second option. It never was easy and the cost was great. Peter preached far and wide throughout Israel and Asia Minor before he was crucified upside-down in Rome. Andrew carried the gospel to what is now Russia before being crucified in Greece. Back in those days the enemies of the cross of Christ thought they had won. They were wrong.

From those humble beginnings the good news of Jesus captured the hearts and minds of billions of men, women and children in every corner of the globe for more than 2,000 years. Today, we are the inheritors of the same invitation from Jesus, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”

The gospel may have reached everywhere, but it has not been received by everyone. Here in the United States alone there are more than 180,000,000 people who have never given their hearts to Jesus. The task before us is great. We can share the gospel story with others with great enthusiasm, but there is no guarantee that our best efforts will always produce the results we might expect.

That leaves us with the same choices Simon and Andrew faced. Will we quit in the face of adversity and apparent failure? Or, in the power of the Holy Spirit, will we resolve to knock the dust off our shoes and move on to the next opportunity believing that God will honor our faithfulness and produce the results he wants for the next generation?

I say, “Let’s go fishin’!”

The Rev. Mike Hesse, former senior pastor of Immanuel Anglican Church, is now retired and living in Destin.