While vacationing with my grandsons on Edisto Island last week, I noticed that Drew (13) and Charlie (11) were focused on the waves before them, while my eyes were drawn to the ocean beyond. I noticed, too, that they didn't have to get up during the night, while I . . . well, you get the idea. These two observations colluded to spawn another in the midst of a midnight hour near the end of our time together.
After responding to nature's call, I paused to gaze through our third floor bedroom window. The sea was calm, so much so that the moon's rays looked like perfectly pressed silver ribbons adorning a blue satin sheet. Above, the stars seemed to dance in the cloudless sky, as if to celebrate the beauty of the scene below. In the distance, miles beyond the breakers, the lights of six boats interrupted the horizon to signal the presence of crews fishing on the bottom for "the big ones" that tend to elude more timid daytime anglers.
On numerous occasions over the years God has taken me "bottom fishing" . . . urging me in His own way to grapple with His visions for my ministry, visions so large and far reaching as to be daunting, visions so challenging as to tempt me to hide behind an exaggerated significance of my day-to-day parish responsibilities. During those hiding times God has denied me His peace in favor of the kind of soul-searching Jacob must have experienced when God went "bottom fishing" with him (Genesis 32:22-31). Wrestling with Him, if you will, in the predawn darkness, I have clearly heard the Captain's authoritative voice and, stripped of my daytime alibis, surrendered to His desire that I lead this congregation to "go deeper" in search of "the big one" He so desperately wants brought to the surface.
As a parish, we once walked on the safe sands where the shallow sea and soft shore embrace; and, like Drew and Charlie, we dared not look beyond the breakers where "the big ones" lurk. But, my brothers and sisters, we are no longer children - we've bested the tides to become the largest parish in the Diocese; and by God's grace, we've caught more than a few "big ones" during our twenty years of sailing together.
Now the Lord is calling us to go "bottom fishing" with Him again. As I've shared with you in recent annual meetings, the meanings of "going deeper" and "the big one" have been clearly revealed: so deep as to demand ultimate faith in the Captain - so big as to require all hands on deck. Some will say the waters ahead are uncharted and therefore to be avoided; others will posit that such a voyage is akin to a fool-hearty quest after a 21st century Moby Dick. But my brothers and sisters, we'll not be serving under Captain Ahab - the King of Kings will be at the helm . . . and with Him no water is too deep and no fish too big! I pray you'll sign on to crew with me!
In His Power and for His Glory,