My life revolves around this lake. I know all its fickle moods, its wind-shifts, its seasons, and its currents. My business partners and I also know where to find the fish. That’s why we are such good friends, and why our company - ZBD Food Services – is so profitable.
I also know its beauty. We often set out as the sun is setting; spearing its shafts of light across the sky from behind black clouds on the western horizon—an ever-changing, ever-fading kaleidoscope: from blazing gold to orange; to crimson; to vivid pink before wan mauve becomes purple and darkens to indigo. Each of these tints' feeble attempts to hold our attention is dismissed by the encroaching darkness. And any low-slung clouds to the east are treated to a faint smudge of pink before they too are absorbed into dusk’s wan-ness.
Out on the lake, we see this twice: in the sky; and simultaneously on the surface; where the water sparkles in its own mimicry.
Out on the lake, we also see the lights going out in the towns and villages that punctuate the whole shoreline, and the settlements in the surrounding hills, as people retire for the night. Yet the darkness that conceals them introduces us to a new brilliance—of the countless stars overhead.
As nature stills itself within this enveloping blackness, our hearing range extends beyond the limitations and the competing noises of daytime action. A nocturnal realm is quietly stirring to life, heralded by birds settling on their nests, as foxes and other predators get to work and insects scurry through their nightly clean-up duties.
Out on the lake, the water enhances these acoustics, for we hear snatches of comments from other boats that are nowhere near us.
Through all of this sensory stimulation, we keep moving under sail towards the sluggish waves that indicate deeper water. Trailing our nets behind us we avoid using our oars; to avoid disturbing the fish. Silence and patience are an absolute must.
Time passes; as do the fish. Right past. Our nets are not slowing us down, for they respond freely to our occasional tugging. We also keep listening to ensure we are pointing into the waves; for fish will keep their distance if they hear waves slapping against our sides.
Extended inactivity augments the chill from an enveloping mist, but the rising sun starts to impose itself on our world. Breaking out the oars, we turn for home; adding inner warmth to the sun at our backs. Breakfast is sounding like a great idea; to us and to the birds that have begun circling above us—and any other boats they’ve detected.
An hour later we’ve secured our boats at the lakeside, expecting to quickly clean our nets and get home.
But suddenly we find a crowd has materialised all around us; and we have no fish to sell them.
However their hunger is for something from our new teacher friend.
He’s happy to oblige, and asks me to set out a little way from the shore with him, so he can share some teaching. In spite of myself, I’m also happy to oblige. But he already seems to know about how the water will carry his voice to them.
They are silent; in the palm of his hand; as they warm to his wisdom and his integrity, but he doesn’t go on too long. He stands to smile and waves a blessing on them.
Now I suddenly become his student, albeit reluctantly.
He wants us to pull out to deeper water and toss in the nets—for a catch????
“Master, we’ve been out all night and caught nothing! But if you say so (‘Watch that irony,’ I tell myself) the nets will go in!”
Man alive—no sooner have they gone in, my boat lurches over towards them, and I can see more fish than the nets can hold. The other guys quickly come out to help us, but they almost sink as well under the weight of so many fish!
It's all too much for me, as I turn back to Jesus. “Please—leave me alone. This is more than I can handle, for I’m just not good enough!”
He just smiles back, “Don’t be scared, Simon. From now on, you’ll catch men.”
As I look back now, he was right.
Author’s note. This is tinged with memories of early 1999, when I had the joy of baptizing a young woman called Maggie in the large but very shallow lake that gave the town its name. Though we had to wade at least a hundred metres out to reach a sufficient depth of water, everyone back on the shore could hear everything we said to each other: before during and after the baptism.
I realised then that Jesus, having created the laws of acoustics, would also know how to use them with Simon.
However tragedy struck only a month later, when Maggie died in a traffic accident.
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