Gone Fishin'

Writer Author  Kevin Corbin
Christian Article : Salvation  - Fiction  No

Christian Author Writer Floating off a point near a weed bed was a lone aluminum boat with two occupants. It had been years since Bob and his father Werner had been fishing together and Bob had looked forward to this trip with great excitement, but also with a heavy heart and a feeling of dread.

It was a gorgeous sunny fall day on North Buck Lake. The sky was a cloudless, deep azurine blue; the water was dead calm and reflected the yellows of the turning birch and poplar leaves like a mirror. Shades of green, brown, orange and red along the shoreline and in the underbrush put the finishing touches on nature´s palate. The lake teemed with a myriad of geese, ducks and other waterfowl.

Bob´s relationship with his father was good, although he sometimes felt like a child when they were together. Even as an adult he felt an almost desperate need for his father´s approval.

The two hour drive up to the lake and the first hour of fishing was a time of catching up on family news and solving all the world´s problems. Then they fished in relative silence other than the occasional, “Fish on! Feels like a good one” “Nice fish” or “Fish on! Lost it” “Too bad.”

A lot had happened since the last time they had been fishing together. First was Bob´s move out of state and the years at university. He moved to a major city near home after graduation and met Carol soon after. A whirlwind romance was followed by a quick marriage and the move from a downtown apartment into a house in the suburbs. Within three years of the last move Adam (now 14) and Beth (now 12) were born.

Bob and Carol tried visit his parents as often as they could but twice most years was the average. It was only 150 away but life was so busy it might as well been 1500. Fortunately his folks were in the city often and dropped by to see the kids five or six times a year.

Werner hollered “Yes! Fish on! Feels like a big one!”

Bob reeled his own line in quickly, “I´m clear, bring him this way if you have to.”

After a brief struggle, a nice sized largemouth bass was landed and the hook removed. The fish was weighed and released.

“Seven pounds son. You better get working if you want to beat me today” challenged Werner with a laugh.

“Next cast, or maybe I´ll lull you into a false sense of security and wait awhile.”

Their rivalry was all in fun. They competed for bragging and story telling rights with the first, last, biggest, smallest and most fish as benchmarks. In truth each of them was just as excited when the other caught a fish as when they did it themselves.

Bob drifted off into thought as they settled back into the routine of casting and retrieving. Carol had grown up as a Christian and he had not. He had grown up in small oil patch towns before moving to the farm with his parents at the end of grade eleven. He learned how to party, cut corners and look out for himself. She had grown up to be independent but always seemed a little more interested in looking out for other people than he did. That was something Bob really liked in her.

Carol left her faith behind when she left her parent´s home but after Adam was born, she started going back to church occasionally. Bob wasn´t interested at all. Carol could go to church if she wanted as long as it didn´t interfere with his plans. After Beth was born Carol would take both kids and faithfully attend Sunday worship. Some mornings (although he would never admit it) Bob felt a little left out and having the house to himself wasn´t as much fun as it once seemed.

When those feelings arose he would quickly remember what a bunch of hypocrites those Christians were, a bunch of party pooping do-gooders who were only after his money and the feelings would fade.

Whoa! He´d been so deep in thought that he almost missed the strike. Setting the hook Bob hooted “Yes!! Fish on and it´s a good one, a real fighter.”

“That´s it son, keep the rod tip up, bring him in” coached his father.

Bringing the fish alongside the boat Bob could see it was the smallest bass he had caught so far this year. It was hard to believe a fish that small could put up a fight that good. With an embarrassed chuckle Bob said “Well it fought like a big one”.

Werner laughed too “That counts for the smallest so far. Let me see now .... biggest for me, smallest for you. Who will have the most before we´re done? Probably me at this rate.”

“No problem dad, I´ll have it hands down. Don´t be counting on keeping the big category for too long.”

They bantered back and forth for a bit and went back to fishing.

One Sunday morning Beth asked why daddy didn´t come to church. Bob went with them to avoid a lengthy explanation and discussion, it just seemed to be easier to go than to fight about it. Much to his surprise the people at New Beginnings Christian Church were friendly and welcoming. Carol seemed to know a lot of people and feel very comfortable. The kids took off like a shot to Sunday school or junior church or something. Bob wasn´t quite sure where, they had told him about those things before but he hadn´t really listened.

The sermon that morning was on tithing and Bob almost groaned aloud when he heard the topic. Here comes the big spiel he thought “give us all your money.” He tried his hardest not to listen, but the preacher said something unexpected, something he agreed with “If you are giving out of guilt, put your money away. You need to be giving as the Lord calls you, not because you feel pressured.”

Bob didn´t know what the Lord´s calling was or what it had to do with anything, but he understood being against fundraising by guilt. He wasn´t tight with his money, he gave generously to causes he believed in but hated to be pressured into giving. He refused to give to any group that tried to use guilt as leverage.

The worship experience wasn´t as bad as he expected that first week so Bob went back to church with Carol and the kids the following week and the week after that. Before long he hardly ever missed a worship service. He didn´t know exactly when, but this Jesus stuff began to make sense and within six months they were baptized, confirmed and formally accepted as members of New Beginnings.

“Bob, over there to the left. See the black bear cub by the beaver lodge?” whispered Werner.

“Yes dad. Gorgeous isn´t he? Lots of them around this year.”

Together they laughed at the cub´s antics. It chased and batted at a butterfly until the butterfly tired of the game and flew away. The cub noticed their boat and stood on it´s hind legs watching them for a while as if wondering what kind of animals they were and what they were doing. Losing interest in the strange creatures, the cub valiantly charged through water and weeds to catch a frog, but got only wet and muddy for all it´s efforts. After a while it grew tired of playing by the lake and ambled back into the bush. Once it was out of sight they resumed fishing.

Bob began to change in subtle ways after joining the church. He didn´t drink as much and eventually quit entirely. He began to cut down on his swearing and found that ‘borrowing´ computer software or bringing home office supplies made him uncomfortable.

Carol started going to a ladies´ Bible study once a week and each time came home bubbling with enthusiasm and new found knowledge. After watching her for a while Bob decided to join a men´s study group. It wasn´t at all the way he thought it would be. It wasn´t formal or stuffy and they didn´t seem to mind if he asked dumb questions. They even answered his questions with words he could understand which surprised him because church people spoke a language all their own.

What impressed Bob most was that some of these men, the ones he thought had it all together, would talk about things that they struggled with. They were normal men, just like himself, only they dealt with life´s pitfalls better because of their faith. They supported one another and kept each other accountable.

“Bob there are terns feeding over by the weeds on the other side. They seem to be catching lots of small perch. That means there are big fish there too, feeding on the little ones. Let´s give it a go over there, kinda quiet here.”

They stowed the rods and buzzed across to the other side. The first couple of casts brought in a fish for each of them, nothing to brag about, but every fish was included in the count. As always they released their catch. They made small talk about the lake, re-told some favourite fishing stories and then settled back into quiet casting.

Bob began to notice other changes in his life after he started attending Bible study. He began to read his Bible most days and spend time in prayer. He and Carol read the Bible to each other before bed and discussed it. It was a wonderful intimate time together. The sense of comfort and joy that came with his faith continued to astound him, it was beyond any feeling he had ever known.

People at work noticed a new Bob who seemed friendlier. One who didn´t play the office political games anymore or bad mouth the boss and customers. Some co-workers seemed determined to prove the change was just an act and baited him relentlessly. Others decided he had become another religious nut and made fun of him behind his back or ignored him altogether, but there were a few who supported him. He was surprised to find that there were even a few other Christians at work.

His folks noticed the difference too and let him know in no uncertain terms, “If it works for you dear that´s great. Just don´t try to push it on us.” They knew Bob and his family had “got religion” and tried their best to behave. Recognizing that racial and sexual jokes made Bob uncomfortable, his dad stopped telling them in Bob´s presence after a while. Werner´s language even cleaned up a little, no doubt with a little prodding from his wife. It seemed to Bob that his parents thought being a Christian was all about being good or nice. They never seemed to want to hear how Bob and Carol´s hearts and lives had been changed.

More than anything Bob wanted his parents to have a relationship with Jesus but he also wanted to honour their wishes. That conflict lead to his feelings of dread. It was like walking on eggshells when his folks were around. Every time they got together, the conflict in his own heart hung a dark cloud over the occasion.

Bob brought up the subject of faith a couple of times in a bumbling sort of way, only to be shot down in mid air. He invited his folks to a couple of special services at the church and they surprised him by coming, albeit reluctantly. It took him a while to realize that more was required for his parents to know Jesus than just being coerced into a church. After that realization he quit trying for a while, but it was always on his heart.

A sudden flurry of biting fish shook him out of his private thoughts. The fishing was fast and furious for a while. A couple more bass apiece and about twenty good sized crappies were landed before things slowed down again.

They moved down the lake to another small bay, changed lures and settled back down to some serious fishing. Well, as serious as they got. Werner theorized that “Men like to fish because it gives them something to do with their hands and fills the need to provide for the family at the same time. Even if you don´t keep the fish there is something good about knowing you could.”

“You know dad, this is what it´s all about. Good fishing, great weather and good company. It´s pretty hard to top that”

“True son. It´s been way to long since we did this. We´ll have to do it more often.” Werner laughed and said “Your mom never did understand the fun in our competing. She always seemed to think we were deadly serious, that it really mattered who had the biggest or the most.”

“Carol is the same. She worries that Adam and I take it too seriously as well. I´ve tried explaining that it´s just part of the fun, but I´m not sure she believes it.”

The need to share his faith with his father keep creeping into Bob´s thoughts taking away some of the joy of the day. He rehearsed a thousand different conversations in his head. Somehow the timing never seemed to feel right. He regularly prayed for his parents to know Jesus but he always found himself afraid to share with them. He could talk about the Lord with a coworker, a stranger or other Christians, just not to his family.

Bob joked once at Bible study that it would be easier to face being a missionary to some country where they kill Christians than to talk to his dad about his faith. Yet it wasn´t a joke in some ways. He wanted to share the gospel but was afraid of his father´s reaction.

Bob dug through his tackle box, looking for just the right lure. Maybe it was time to bring out his old favourite, his secret weapon.

“Frustrated son?”

“Yes” and not just about the slowdown in fishing thought Bob.“Time to dig out my trusty red and white crankbait, it´s caught more bass than all the rest of my gear together. Watch out fish!”

“Think I´ll stick to my spinner bait for a while yet. Lets see, you´ve got the smallest, I´ve got the first, biggest and the most by one, time for you to catch up.”

“Yes! First cast with my crankbait and I´ve got a big one on! I should have started using it earlier.” After a long fight the bass was landed, weighed and set free to be caught again another day.

“Eleven pounds dad. Lets see, that gives me smallest, biggest and ties us for the most. Looks like it´s your turn.”

The fish hit almost non stop for a while before cooling off again. The action left them still tied for the coveted honour “most fish”.

“Son, I don´t remember the last time the fishing was this good. Coming out here was a great idea. Thanks for inviting me.”

“ You´re welcome dad. It´s been fun for me too.”

“I haven´t had this much fun in years. Life just got to busy for a while and then I didn´t feel like going by myself.”

“I know the feeling dad. Another hour or so and we´ll have to pack up though, I want to have the boat loaded before dark.”

They headed down the lake to a bay not far from the boat launch area and resumed fishing. The quiet time in the late afternoon sun was nice.

“Oh no” thought Bob, “only an hour. Maybe I´ll just wait and talk about Jesus during the drive home or the next time we get together. The day hasn´t been a loss though, it has been fun to spend the day with dad. Perhaps that was all it was supposed to be today, maybe I don´t need to worry so much, there will always be another time.”

“Son do you remember Ted Wilkinson ?”

“The names is sort of familiar. Doesn´t he own the hardware store back home?”

“That´s him. Owned the hardware store for twenty five years then sold out for a bundle last year and retired. He dropped dead of a heart attack last week. It was a total surprise because he never had a sick day in all the time I´ve known him."

“That´s too bad, sorry to hear it.”

“You know, I don´t think he was even sixty yet. I guess you just never know. When your time is up it´s up.”

“So dad, what do you think happens to you after you die?”

“I don´t know. I´ve been giving that a lot of thought lately. What do you think?”

© 2000 K.F. “Kevin” Corbin. All rights reserved by the author.

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