Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mohe 'Aho

Mohe ‘Aho

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven times around, then back through the hole. The fishing line and my lure sparkled in the late morning sun. Pull it tight, and done. As I lifted the knot to my mouth and bit off the extra line I looked out over the ocean. It was a beautiful day. I stood on the edge of one island, looking across a small channel to another island. The clear Pacific water reflected the raising sunlight from the right of the island. In the distance I could see the breakers, but couldn’t hear them. With a light breeze ruffling my hair, I waded, thigh deep into the ocean.
“Dear God,” I said, “I know I don’t always do what’s right. I know that I don’t pray as much as I should, and I know I doubt more than I should. But I’m trying to change, and you know that. Today while I’m fishing I just want to catch a fish. I know that with your help anything is possible. So let me catch a big fish. I promise if you do this for me I’ll be thankful and I won’t waste any of the fish.”
I’d been fishing six or seven times on this same beach. I knew there were fish. I’d seen them. I hadn’t caught any. My Tongan friends laughed at me every time I returned without a fish. When they went fishing they caught six to eight fish, easily.
I’d tried everything I knew. Live bait, lures, bare hooks, I altered my rate of reeling, I didn’t reel, I called the fish; I tried everything. That’s why on this day I prayed. It was the one thing I hadn’t done. I wasn’t sure that praying to catch a fish was right. I wasn’t starving. I didn’t need it. I wanted it. And my bruised pride wanted it. But I figured Christ was a fisherman, or at least he liked fisherman. So today I prayed.
I finished praying and cast my line. Nothing. I did it again. Nothing. Maybe my faith wasn’t strong enough. Even if it was strong enough I still wasn’t sure if this was the type of thing to have faith about? I cast again. Nothing.
By this time I started questioning how much faith I actually had. Did I really believe that God could catch me a fish? Who is God anyways? I knew my family believed, my friends too. Did I believe in God? Was I praying to God because I’d been taught to pray, or, because I believed in him? I cast again. Nothing.
I started to get angry. Not with God, but myself. It was silly to put so much meaning on catching a fish. And even if God did exist my faith wasn’t strong enough for his help. So why should I pray?
Suddenly, when my lure was at my feet, a sliver of a shadow darted from the sand. It struck my lure, and darted away. I laughed. “Okay” I said, “so you have a sense of humor.”
Rejuvenated by adrenaline and a shadow, I kept fishing. Nothing. My doubts returned. Maybe that wasn’t God’s joke; maybe it was a coincidence. Even if there were a God, why would he care about me catching a fish? I cast again, and again, and again. Nothing. My lack of faith was making me sick.
Wait, what was that? It looked like a fish had been following my lure. Was it a fish? Or, was it a shadow. Definitely a fish. I stopped thinking about faith and cast in the direction the shadow had gone. There it was again. That is if it wasn’t just my imagination playing off my hopes. I cast again. It came a third time, but it still didn’t bite. This shadow fish just followed my lure. I cast again. It didn’t’ come back.
I decided my faith was the problem. I once heard that a man, in a time of famine, called in hundreds of fish to the beach. And they came, hundreds of them. They came all the way up to the beach. Just his prayers, and his faith caught hundreds of fish. My shameful prayers couldn’t even catch one.
I changed my lure. Fishing wasn’t meant to be so stressful. I was supposed to relax and stop thinking. I was thinking too much. For a while I stopped thinking. I fell into a casting trance. One, two, three times. Patience. I just needed patience. One, two, three more times. Nothing. One, two, three times more. Nothing.
All right I’d had it. Clearly my faith wasn’t strong enough. Clearly I wasn’t going to catch a fish. One more cast and that was it. Nothing. Just one more and then I was done. Nothing. But I had a feeling that I just needed to cast one more time. So I did. Who was I kidding? I wasn’t going to catch anything. I’d had enough; I was just being silly now. I decided to quit right then and there. Even before I’d finished reeling in my line I started to walk back to the beach.
When my lure came within ten feet of my humiliated, trudging retreat, there was a bump on my line. I turned. Was that a fish? I kept reeling in the line. It was a fish. I’d caught a fish.
Maybe snagged a fish was the more appropriate term. My hook had caught it just behind the gills. It weighed three ounces, and was only four inches long. It fit in the box my Rapala came in. I took it home anyways. My laughing Tongan friends said they call the type of fish I caught Mohe ‘Aho. They also said it was too small for a Tongan to keep.
I’m pretty sure I heard God laughing.

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