My dad was a self-taught deep sea fisherman. It all started with him bringing one of his fishing rods from the lake and just casting it in the surf while we were on a family vacation to the beach. After a few little catches, he wound up asking some other fishermen on the beach what they used. Then it was a little nicer gear, a little better fishing spot. Then it was a dingy little boat we all called Patches for puttering to fishing spots around the island. Then it was a 21ft center console Mastercraft, and venturing out of the bay and into the Gulf of Mexico. Then a 23ft one, and slightly farther and farther off-shore adventures, and with every upgrade, bigger fish, bigger adventures, and more confidence from all of us.
While we were out, we would often run into charter trips. Usually groups of middle aged men on pristine 40ft fishing boats, paying well over $1,000 a head for a day trip. My dad called them “Easter Baskets” because of the frequent appearance of pastel fishing shirts. My dad was always kind of a DIY, every-man kind of man, and his favorite thing in the world was to take his beaten-up boat and his teenage daughter (me), hit the same schools as the charters, and catch double what they could. While I don’t necessarily endorse my Dad’s schadenfreude, it makes me smile to remember it, because the ocean is such an equalizer.
You can have all the right gear, the right bait, be at the right spot, at the right time of day, when the tide is just perfect, and still catch nothing. And you can be a 16 year old, half-asleep and hardly even holding the fishing rod, and accidentally hook a king mackerel by the dorsal fin. Trust me on that one.
What we had that professional charters didn’t was the understanding that we weren’t in charge. If you hire a professional charter, it stands to reason you can set expectations for your experience. You want to catch this kind of fish, you want to have this kind of experience, you want to travel this far, etc. For us, there was always a plan when the day began but, when it came down to it, the ocean made the plan. Because we spent so much time out on the water, we weren’t too attached to specifics of any given trip. Weather not right for heading out to the wreck? We’ll drift for redfish in-shore and try it tomorrow.
That flexibility meant that even with less professional equipment, lower-quality bait, and no professional guidance, we could often catch more, with less headache, because we weren’t locked into an idea of what the day needed to look like.
As leaders of organizations, we can often imagine we have a lot more control over our environment that we actually do. We have strategies and goals and steps to achieve certain attendance goals or sales numbers.
But I wonder if Jesus recruited fishermen on purpose. Because the work of cooperating with the Holy Spirit -in making disciples and building God’s Kingdom is a lot more like responding to the ocean than it is deciding a strategy. I wonder if, just like my dad, we can make ourselves better fishers by listening to the Spirit every day and learning to follow its lead as a daily, joyful practice.
This week, think about where you could have more flexibility to accommodate the Spirits movement, and where you might be a little too stuck on your own imagining of how your work should go.
Dedicated to my Dad – Nick Davies (Sept 29, 1955 – June 9, 2019)