Arms laden with loaded grocery bags, I pulled down on the kitchen door-handle. Somewhat surprised to find that the door was locked, I fumbled to find the right key and twisted it in the well-used lock. I pulled again on the handle and flung the door open. Then, I stared, stunned by what I saw - in front of me was a familiar sight, yet one I had not seen in a very long while - and one, which I had surely not expected to see again.
Slowly, I lowered the groceries to the floor, my eyes were fixed on the green writing on our kitchen-whiteboard. I hugged myself as my chest heaved uncontrollably. Months of pent up desperation erupted from the depths of my soul as I sat sobbing on the floor.
There was a time when those very words would have caused me to grumble bitterly - upon retiring my husband, William had taken up fishing. “Just to fill the days,” he would sing, oblivious to the ever-increasing pain that his fishing escapades were causing. At first it was the odd trip, then as time progressed that green writing remained permanently on the whiteboard. So obsessed was he with the ‘pastime’, that it was pointless erasing the message. Day after day I would return to an empty house. How I wished he would share the burden that I carried in my ‘work for God’. How I wallowed in my loneliness, never considering that it was my very involvement in everyone else’s lives that had caused my husband to pursue his ‘other interest’.
As I sat on that kitchen floor that afternoon, I remembered the day that had ended those fishing trips…
With growing resentment in my solitude, I sat to my noontime meal. Suddenly the shrill ring of the telephone broke through the pitiful silence that surrounded me…
William spent three weeks confined to a hospital bed. The accident had left him with several broken ribs and a mere stump protruding from his right shoulder. It took months for his body to heal.
But his heart…
Embittered with God, he became a man consumed with rage. How could God have done this to him? Now I longed for release. Oh, I would have the lonely life back in exchange for living with this 'venomous monster'. But William was adamant - ‘God’ had taken his right arm, he would never fish again.
An appointment had been set for William to receive an artificial limb. As we travelled across town William became increasingly agitated. He had been determined to drive and now realized that we had taken a wrong turn. None of the street names made sense. His jaws were clenched tightly as his frustration mounted. Not only were we lost, but he was exhausted from the arduous task of having to steer left-handed.
I dared not offer my advice as we drove further, finding ourselves in a neighbourhood that we would have otherwise have avoided. I shuddered at the sight of the unsavoury-looking characters that ‘hung’ by the street corners.
With sudden decisiveness my husband shoved his foot on the brake and brought the car to a violent stop. He got out of the car - fearless in his fury - he slammed the door behind him.
I waited in terrified anticipation. He had gone into a nearby bar – I assumed to ask directions – William, with strict church upbringing had never had a ‘drink’ in his life. After what seemed like eternity, my husband returned. As he lowered himself into the seat beside me, William began to weep. Tears trickled down his weathered face. Startled, I hesitated before reaching over to take his hand.
“Who will tell them?” he looked at me, our eyes met. I furrowed my brow in confusion. “Tell them what?” I asked. “The truth,” he answered solemnly.
I don’t know what happened in the bar that day. But I rejoice at the words now written permanently on our kitchen whiteboard, and to them I have added another line, it reads:
“… and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17b NIV)
My husband doesn’t stand for hours on the banks of some river waiting for his ‘catch’. He doesn’t leave the house with a keep-net and fishing tackle. No, He has a bible under his arm and a song in his heart. He strides out with purpose. He has ‘gone fishing’.
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