I couldn’t so he did. He worked the barbs of the Hula Popper out of the fish’s mouth, and then he tried to hand the fish to me.
“Here Jeff, hold him like this. Just put your thumb in here on the bottom of his mouth, and your fingers on the underside, and you’ll paralyze him.”
“Won’t he bite me?”
“No, he won’t because he’ll be paralyzed – go ahead, take him.”
I tried. I really did. My hand moved toward the 17-inch large mouth bass, but I just couldn’t plunge my thumb into his gaping mouth!
“Jeff, don’t you trust me?”
Oh, come on Pastor, I thought. Don’t make it about that! Don’t make my touching this stinkin’ fish personal between us…
“Yes, I trust you.”
“Then go ahead, just take him – you caught him, you can put him on the stringer.”
When all was said and done, that dark Sunday night after the evening service, down at Mastin’s pond with my friend Hal, and the pastor’s wife and kids – I never touched that monster fish. I mean, I was only like ten years old.
The thing is… I’ve never touched a fish since then either! But that’s a story for my counselor…
MY PASTOR MY FRIEND
I lived in that small town for only two months after this man came to pastor my church, then we moved. Just two months.
Late one Sunday afternoon the Pastor stopped by my house and asked if I wanted to go fishing after the evening service (that I never attended), and if I did I could bring a friend. Of course I said yes. (It was always good to fish with others, so they could take my fish off the hook!)
I still remember that night, the dark moonless sky held a bright canopy of stars. The crickets chirped loudly in the weeds. Bullfrogs and small fish splashed the surface of the water.
“Jeff, on these dark nights it’s best to use black lures,” he said. “Why in the world would that be true?” I wondered back.
“Here’s why Jeff, take your hand, stretch it out and hold it above your head. See? See how it contrasts against the night sky? That’s what the fish sees. The blacker the lure, the better the contrast.”
Now that’s something I’ve never forgotten. I’ve never really used the information either – but I’ve never forgotten it! You know, when your dad never took you fishing, it didn’t take much to create a personal connection. My pastor noticed me. He cared. And that meant a lot to me.
I remember that night, and our many encounters after it. Eight years later I would live with this pastor and his family for almost four months. He invited me to help him at his church, which I accepted. I was there, I’m not sure how much help I was, but I learned a lot.
Thirty-five years after that night at the pond, I would stop at his house on my way to pick up my daughter from college. Hadn’t seen each other in twenty-five years! He was now an old man, and I was old enough.
While talking to his wife in the kitchen, he walked in from the backyard. Without saying a word we embraced, two pastors now, and I wept.
I couldn’t contain the emotions that welled up in me. This man, as flawed as we all are, had made a profound difference in my life, simply because he cared, and because he spent just a little time with me, and established a friendship.
STILL MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Hardly a week goes by when I am not influenced by that night at the pond. Will I stop and talk with a kid? Will I pay attention to a little girl who says, “Look Pastor, look what I made”? Will I give a teenager the time of day, saying hello and using his or her name?
You bet I will! I’m the pastor now. In forty years I want some men and women to write about how their pastor knew them, cared about them, and had influence in their lives. It really doesn’t take much to make a difference.
Of course, I’ll never take a kid’s fish off a hook. I mean, I do have limits.
Or will I?
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