A fellow named Mike was celebrating his thirtieth birthday. Eric, a soldier who fought in Afghanistan, and his girlfriend Jenny, a registered nurse, planned a surprise fishing trip for him.
They were fishing off the coast of Cape Coral, Florida, when Mike hooked a massive grouper. After about ten seconds of fighting the giant fish, he was dragged overboard. The group pulled him out of the water, but his fishing rod was lost.
About twenty minutes later, Jenny spotted the rod on the bottom in the crystal-clear water. They hooked it with the ship’s anchor and pulled it into the boat. Surprisingly, the grouper was still attached to the line.
This time, Eric was holding the rod when the fish made a dash for the bottom again, launching Eric overboard with the rod and reel. The ship’s captain said it was the first time he saw two men get pulled into the water by the same fish.
We think of fishing as a casual, relaxing hobby, but as Mike and Eric can testify, it can be dangerous.
No greater privilege
When Jesus said to his first disciples, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19), he was similarly calling them to lives of sacrifice and challenge. These men were professional fishermen, so they knew something about the dangers and difficulties that awaited them.
The fish are just part of the problem. There are the storms that break suddenly on the Sea of Galilee and threaten to swamp boats and their sailors (cf. Matthew 14:24).
And there is the fact that fishermen must fish where and when the fish are more likely to be caught. This is why, on one occasion, Peter said, “We toiled all night” (Luke 5:5). Fish in the Sea of Galilee are more active at night, and fish caught at night can be sold fresh in the morning.
All that to say, fishing for men is a challenging and often dangerous calling. But there is no greater privilege than being used by God to change the eternal trajectory of eternal souls.
This is a calling we can fulfill every day, in every place we find ourselves.
Henri Nouwen noted: “To start seeing that the many events of our day, week, or year are not in the way of our search for a full life but are rather the way to it is a real experience of conversion. We discover that cleaning and cooking, writing letters and doing professional work, visiting people and caring for others, are not a series of random events that prevent us from realizing our deepest self. These natural, daily activities contain within them some transforming power that changes how we live.
“We make hidden passage from time lived as ‘chronos’ to time lived as ‘kairos.’ ‘Kairos’ is a Greek word meaning ‘the opportunity.’ It is the right time, the real moment, the chance of our lives. When our time becomes ‘kairos,’ it frees us and opens us to endless new possibilities.”
In these days of pandemic suffering and economic challenges, we are still called to be “fishers of men.” In fact, the challenges our world faces are showing people their need for help and hope on a deep, transforming level. If we will ask Jesus to guide us and use us today, he will lead us to the “fish” he intends to bring to himself.
And we will discover that ‘chronos’ has become ‘kairos,’ to the glory of God.