Cast Away

Jul 11, 2022

Today, students, we’re starting with a quiz. What name would you give this set? {grasshoppers, corn, minnows, worms, crickets} Tick…tick…tick…Time’s up! And the correct answer is: fish bait! That’s right. Each of these can allure one of those underwater creatures onto a hook, along with lures and concoctions like stink bait. If you’ve never had experience with this last item, add that to your bucket list, along with a nose clip and robust hand cleaner.

My earliest fishing expeditions consisted of a stick pole (the Kansas kid farm version of a cane pole), string tied around the top, a single hook, and a worm dug from the yard or a grasshopper caught in the field. The small creek near our home wouldn’t have been featured in any fishing magazine, but for us kids, it was divine. Minnows flashed silver as they played just below the surface, tadpoles inspired fascination as they transformed from bobbing spheres to hopping frogs, and crayfish teased as they played “You can’t catch me,” darting from below one rock to another. Occasionally a fish large enough to justify filleting for dinner ventured through and succumbed to a hook.

My fishing resume eventually added numerous rivers, lakes, and ponds thanks to my parents’ efforts and travels. I maneuvered over the boulders on the dam of Gardner Lake, hoping to not disturb a snake on the descent to water’s edge; jockeyed for a prime fishing spot on the metal bench of our simple boat, trying to avoid reprimands for causing too much movement; and gazed in awe at hundreds of bluegill swimming in unison under the crystal-clear waters of a little-known lake in Utah. The locals considered these “trash fish,” leaving the species to flourish.

              Whether in an ice-cold trout stream in Colorado, a warm local pond, or a cool Midwestern lake, one aspect of fishing never changed. It required casting. A reel had to be wound with the appropriate weight of line, then a rod threaded, the correct quantity and size of weights attached, a cork placed to match the desired depth, a hook tied on, and then bait affixed. Lest you think bait-attachment is a simple, one-size-fits-all process, I assure you it’s not. Entire schools of thought exist about the “right” way to fasten hopping, wiggling, flapping creatures to a barbed piece of metal. (That’s the reality of fishing with live bait.)

Then it would be time to cast. Well, not quite. First, a person needed to assess their surroundings and consider the distance and path their baited hook would travel after being released by the reel on its way to the desired landing point. Kids often don’t do what they should.

The number of times my father had to retrieve a hook captured by a tree limb, kidnapped by a submerged log, or imprisoned in the coat, shirt, lifejacket, hair, or ear of a sibling might well outnumber the quantity of caught fish. Yet I never once heard him yell. Instructions on how to be more thoughtful but never accusations about being careless. Frustration may have appeared on his face and shown in his gait, but it never resulted in shaming or blaming.

Thankfully, there were countless more times the cork, restraining the line below from sailing into parts unknown, plopped satisfactorily onto its proper spot. There it sat until it bobbed sporadically, signaling a fish was nibbling at the bait, or until it disappeared suddenly as the bait below became a fish’s meal, or until impatience beckoned it return to the boat or to shore. There it would be examined, and a decision made to adjust the depth of the hook, what was placed on it, or give up entirely and set off to explore the surrounding area. (When on shore, of course, not when in a boat.)

Casting was both an art and a science. Too jerky and your bait would launch off by itself, becoming a free lunch for the nearest fish or turtle or even snake. Too short and you’d be in the shallows, which often resulted in line getting stuck in rocks, lily pads, or driftwood residing by the shore. Too far and the depth of line would be too short, although this was easy to correct by reeling in a bit.

If your timing was off between pushing and releasing the reel button, the line would go nowhere near the water and only wrap itself around the rod…or your sibling. If your geometry was off, your line would cross over someone else’s. If this was a sibling, it nearly always resulted in them believing it was an act of intentional sabotage and met with glares or appeals to authority to make you “not do that again.”

What does all of this have to do with the First Great Commandment? To “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength?”

Love, belief, and action are inseparable.

In 1 Peter 5:7, we are instructed, “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.”

It doesn’t say, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he’ll get mad if you don’t.” Or “Cast all your anxiety on him because he’s trying to teach you a lesson.” Or “Cast all your anxiety away from him, because he’s frustrated with you.” Or even “Cast all your major anxiety on him because he doesn’t have time for the little stuff.”

We are instructed to cast all our anxiety – every single one of those flailing, floppy, wiggling, squirmy parts of life that are messy and stinky and difficult to grasp.

We are reminded the reason for this is simply because he cares for us. This isn’t to score points in a casting competition. It’s not to assess whether we’ve learned to accurately wind up the parts of our life and hide them inside a reel, letting out a little bit of ourselves at a time. It’s not to berate us into no longer casting our anxieties into the appealing limbs of approval seeking or submerging them under shameful addictions.

It is simply because we are loved.

He knows our human condition even better than we know it ourselves. Not only as our Creator but as God-made-man. And he is filled with compassion for the brokenness of this world and how its barbs puncture our souls.

Casting, whether for fish or for peace, isn’t always easy or smooth. We don’t always land what we hope for. But we can always choose to keep on casting.


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©Stephanie D. Smith

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