I still have the jeans I wore when I went fishing all those summers ago. I’m wearing them now. They have a hole above one knee and are worn dishcloth soft. I’ve wiped blood, snotty bait, potato chip crumbs, sunblock, and god knows what else on them, but it was never a fashion show on the boat.
It wasn’t about what you wore when you went fishing, it was about what you caught.
Sometimes the men liked to remind me there was a time two things weren’t allowed on boats: women and bananas.
You can imagine what I often packed in my lunch bag.
I sat on my rear end or I leaned against the rail, and I waited to feel something.
What I felt the first time I caught a fish was what I’d been looking for all those times I walked into church as a child, as an adult. I’d wanted to feel God hook me in the heart, the guts, somewhere deep inside. I wanted to see that no matter how I struggled, he would never let me go.
When you stand on the deck of a boat and you look out at the sea, generally you don’t see fish. You see sea. There is no reason to believe in the ghostly slide of bait you’d wrapped around your hook and then dropped down for the count of twenty or twenty-one or however long the captain told you to release your line so you would be close to, but not touching the ocean floor. (It’s so easy for hooks to get caught on rocky ledges. And then you lose it all: hook, line and sinker! And an annoyed mate has to cut you free, start you over.)
But you always catch a fish. Maybe not that day. And maybe not the next. But if you keep getting out of bed in the morning, if you keep paying the price of the ticket and getting on the boat and baiting your hook and dropping your line, you will catch a fish.
You just need faith.
And If you have faith, you get to do the good work of reeling in your line, bringing up a thrashing miracle, making it yours.