This summer, while my husband was gone commercial fishing, the kids and I decided to go halibut fishing with our Pastor, and his neice. We motored out well into the Cook Inlet to some designated halibut “hot-spots” and prepared to bait our hooks. Some of the best bait for halibut happens to be herring and Rick, our Pastor, had a bucket of herring on the deck that was soaking in some sort of special brine he had made to make it more smelly and therefore more halibut attracting. I looked at the liquid the bait was floating in and suddenly didn’t want to touch it. It was brown, greasy, slimy, and smelled pretty funky. The thought ran through my head, “I don’t want that stuff all over my hands.”
Well, we had seven fishermen, and five poles to bait, so I “bucked up”and plunged my hand into the greasy brine, pulled out a herring, cut it in half and attached him to the circle hook at the end of a fishing pole. Then I took the other half and attached it to the hook of another, and repeated this process until all of the fishing poles were ready to fish.
I thought about what changed my mind from being grossed-out by the herring to becoming brave and diligent with the assignment, and here is what I came up with:
#1 The task needed to be done. Sure I could let Rick, bait everyone’s hooks, and run from pole to pole making sure everyone was set up and ready, but that would make the burden greater for him, and he may not get a chance to fish because his time is taken up in baiting other people’s poles. I was capable, I was knowledgeable, I was an adult. It was a responsibility that I needed to answer to and so I did.
Secondly, and probably more profound to me, was this thought that occurred to me: “My hands will only be dirty until I wash them.” The grease and grime was a temporary state of being, because I had opportunity to make them clean again. As I looked over the railing of the fishing boat we were on, there was a vast supply of water we were bobbing upon. The Pacific Ocean was within my reach, with water that would clean my hands.
So with herring on my hands, God began to talk to my heart. I began to think about the assignments or opportunities God had placed in my path on a daily basis, and I thought about how I picked or rejected each one. I didn’t like the ones that inconvenienced me. I didn’t want the jobs that got my hands dirty, or messed too much with my free time. I often skipped some assignments thinking that someone more qualified would eventually come along and do them in my place. I saw many assignments as undesirable while I bobbed and floated in life on the ocean of God’s love and mercy. I began to see my selfishness and near-sightedness.
My mom used to have a plaque that hung up in our home that said these words: “The Will of God will never lead you where the Grace of God cannot keep you.” And in the words of John Mark McMillan’s song “How He Loves”, there is that brilliant line that says “if grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.”
The fact remains that I live in an infinite supply of the love and grace of God. Like the fishing boat on the Pacific Ocean, my life is surrounded. I need only to dip my hands over the railing and find that there is grace enough to help me accomplish my tasks, refresh my soul, and prepare me for the next moment. So what am I waiting for? It’s time to take the plunge!