It was the fourth decade of my life and I could easily summarize it with one word – success. My career at the plastics factory grew wings and began to soar. From my humble beginnings as a plastic materials handler, I graduated to operating injection-molding machines, and later to changing the heavy steel molds that shaped liquid plastic into objects. This was just the beginning. Within a few years I was supervising a dozen workers on a packaging line.
A couple of years later our company was awarded a contract to assemble the internal components of disposable cameras, also called throw aways. When the economics of recycling these cameras became favorable we were asked to start recycling them. Our involvement in this business grew into tens of millions of product each year. Our company’s success meant more supervisors were needed and managers to oversee the supervisors. Up the corporate ladder I rose.
I was too busy to have much to do with fish now. All my energy was being poured into my career and taking it to new heights. Success fueled my competitive fire and I found new avenues of my life in which to express it. I challenged myself in sports such as softball, golf, volleyball, and yes even bowling. In academics I pursued of a Master of Science in Leadership from my alma mater RWC, which included an appearance in Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities and for all practical purposes was my crowning achievement. God was with me then but His voice was becoming increasingly harder to hear. Success was as noisy as a loud trumpet playing a beautiful melody. I began to believe that what I had accomplished had less to do with God’s blessings on my life and more to do with my own abilities.
What free time I did have I spent trying to stay abreast of our sons’ ever-changing interests. When they became teenagers they were more interested in the speed of a boat than the patience of fishing. Their dreams included manning a space shuttle and traveling to other worlds on a starship named Enterprise. Our vacations were spent visiting the thrill rides at amusement parks and taking them to places we thought would expose their minds to the many possibilities life offered. When we did visit one of Patty or my parents’ cottages, fishing was the lowest priority. Instead, we encouraged them to experience the thrill of being pulled in a tube behind a speeding boat and chase after the model rockets they launched into the great expanse of the sky. Computers and video gaming were becoming the rage then and they fell in love with technology hook, line and sinker.
My father never gave up on fishing, he continued to fish with my youngest brother and many other fishing buddies. His patience and steadfastness were richly rewarded each time he reeled in a trophy-sized fish.
“Perhaps the most unusual object added to the room was a 40-pound stuffed and mounted Salmon caught by Dad while fishing on Lake Ontario years earlier. It was hung on the wall…and was the first thing he saw when he woke up every morning. It was a trophy that represented the patience, persistence and faithfulness that epitomized my father.” Bill Roushey from the book Junior’s Hope
I distinctly remember two things of a spiritual nature happening during this decade of my life. First, a sick feeling that rose up within me when I realized that unbridled success apart from a close relationship with God rang hollow. In the midst of all my success I can remember at one point wondering, “Is this all life has to offer?” (Ecclesiastes 3:9-14). As a result, I began a period of connecting deeper with God, exploring a call to ministry and listening quietly for periods of time while I prayed. These periods of listening to hear from God led to the second event.
The sick feeling that I carried around in my being was replaced by an unexplained hunger, a.k.a. the second event. For some reason I felt I needed to reconnect with my father and deepen my relationship with him. The feeling grew in intensity and became so strong it compelled me to act on it. Weeks went by and the feeling never left me.
Dad’s upbringing was grounded in genuine faith in God but due to the rules placed on its members by his (our) denomination of faith it was expressed outwardly as a list of do’s and dont’s. In grade school I was looked at like a child from another planet when I handed my physical eduction teacher a note from my parents explaining that dancing was against our religious convictions. I , too, loved God but I rejected that religious legalism as a college student, punctuating my rejection with a fun rebellion. Somehow in my mind when I rejected legalism I rejected my father. I never felt close to him after that. When the hunger that continued to grow inside me didn’t subside, I prayed for God to show me some vehicle I could use to reconnect with my father. That vehicle turned out to be researching our family genealogy (see my post Beginning’s).
I rarely fished with my father or father-in-law during this time. I was too busy wandering in the wasteland of my presumption. The great fish caught in this decade of my life were not my own. These fish belonged to the faithful who fished with patience and steadfastness and they were richly rewarded. In my mind these fish stood as a reminder of how God honored the faithfulness of those who drew near to Him and did not take their faith for granted. (Proverbs 3:1-7)
Dad’s 40-pound trophy salmon stands as a tribute to his efforts. For the rest of my days, whenever I gaze upon at that fish I will associate it with my father being a faithful man of God. The end of this decade brought me closer to my father than I ever had been.
But a huge dark cloud appeared on the tranquil horizon. One that struck fear in my heart…