A few days ago, I wrote about letting nature be your teacher, and last weekend, I experienced it in one of my favorite ways. I went fishing. The picture is my dad and me, posing on the Harrison River’s bank.
I get a deep appreciation for all those Galilean fishermen when I’m out there tossing my line in the river all day. Many of Jesus’ disciples spent day in and day out on a boat searching for fish to feed their families and to make money. And as anyone who has ever fished knows, the weather and the fish don’t always comply with the fishermen’s best intentions.
Our fishing excursion started early in the morning, and we were packed for the day. Our boat was equipped with shelter from the rain, when a few sudden downpours showered down on us. But out on often turbulent Sea of Galilee, those fishermen didn’t have anywhere to go.
Recently, archaeologists have discovered a first century fishing boat in the Sea of Galilee. They call it the Jesus Boat, since it was likely on the water when the disciples were making their living via fish. You can see pictures of it at this site. I got to see it shortly after it was discovered, while it was still encased in foam to preserve it. It’s surprisingly small, for all those disciples.
My mom and dad have been out on the river when some pretty bad storms have hit, out of nowhere. Huge hailstones and major temperature drops happen unexpectedly, and you just need to ride out the storm. After it passes, boats search around the river, checking on the smaller vessels, making sure everybody made it okay. You wouldn’t believe how small some of the boats are, and inevitably, they manage to fit two guys and a dog on board.
One of my favorite paintings illustrates this principle for me. It used to live at one of my favorite museums, the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston. The painting was stolen in 1990 in a famous art heist. The piece is Rembrandt’s “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee,” and it’s a stunning depiction of Jesus and the disciples in a boat amidst terrifying waves on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus is the calm in the center of the storm, and some of the disciples look to him for help.
In the painting, there’s one disciple looking out towards the light on the horizon while holding to a line. Another is clinging with all his might to the mast. Others are simply looking to Jesus and holding to nothing.
Out fishing, exposed to the elements on the water, where do I run for shelter and safety? Where is my anchor and my hope? Of course, if I’m blessed with a canopy on the boat, I’m heading there, but figuratively, what am I trusting? Am I trusting the boat and my own life preservation skills to keep me afloat, or am I trusting Jesus, who holds my life in his hands?
I want to be like those disciples at the back of the boat with Jesus, but unfortunately, I know that I’m usually the one strapped to the mast and looking for the best place to duck and cover.