I recently had the change to go fishing with friend. We were about 17 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico in nearly 40 feet of water. We both had two rods in the water. One rod was for grunt. Since grunt are comparatively small fish, these rods and reels are relatively small with light line. The other rod is for grouper. These rods and reels are large and have unbelievably strong fishing line on them, able to handle fish well over 60 to 70 lbs. At one point we both hooked up on our lighter grunt lines. We both reeled in, but it was clear that whatever was on my line was large. It was soon clear that this fish was well over 50 pounds based upon the amount of line the fish took from the spool. After wrangling the fish for 90 minutes, and having it traverse the boat back and forth, it had dragged the boat nearly 1 full mile according to the GPS. I knew I had to try to raise him off the bottom.
I was exhausted. My arms, hands, and back were stiff and in pain. I began to hoist up and reel down. For every two feet I gained, he stripped back a foot of line. At long last Ken could see the fish begin to surface. It was a nurse shark. As it neared the boat it was clearly about 7 to 8 feet long and well above 100 lbs.
We realized that the two of us could not get this shark into the board so I told Ken to snap a photo while I tried to hold the line then we would cut him loose. As Ken turned to grab his camera the line snapped and the shark lurked back to the depths.
Ken later posted some photos of our catch as well as some video of me fighting the shark on social media. The response was pretty quick and incredulous. Most of it pretty funny. It was clear that most everyone thought we were just telling fish tales because in the end, there was no photo of the actual shark.
It made me think of faith, and more importantly, sharing faith.
On that boat, I experienced 90 minutes of painful struggle against a 100+ pound shark. It was my experience. No one else experienced it. For me, there is little convincing needed. It was my direct experience.
For Ken, he witnessed it all. He was there the minute I hooked and he watched as the rod doubled over for 90 minutes as I pushed and pulled against the beast. Ken also had the benefit of seeing the shark raised to the surface. For Ken, little convincing is needed, because he was a direct witness, even though he did not have the same experience.
But our friends on social media mostly discredited my experience, and Ken’s witness because there was little proof beyond watching me hold a fishing rod with what was reported as a shark on the other end. Everyone needed more evidence to believe.
In the book of Luke in the Christian New Testament, this sentence is recorded:
“But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.’”
This is the dilemma of faith. A person needs to experience faith for themselves. We can talk all we want about miracles and blessings, and judgement, and other sensational histories of faith, but in the end, that will rarely make a believer out of an unbelieving individual. History is scattered with bystanders who observed faith and still refused to engage in the walk. It is often cited that Mahatma Gandhi once said, “I would have been a Christian if I hadn’t met one.” It seems that sometimes our own testimonies and attempts to convince can even be grounds for affirming ones mind against our faiths.
I wonder if Jesus recognized what I now fully understand. Unless we can produce something pretty fantastic, no one is going to believe our personal testimonies of faith. Maybe that is why Yeshuah called his disciples “Fishers of Men.”
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