The fourth decade of my life could easily summarize in one word, success. My career at the plastics factory sprouted wings soared. From my humble beginnings as a plastic materials handler, I graduated to operating injection-molding machines, and changing the heavy steel molds that shaped melted plastic pellets into parts. This was just the beginning. Within a few years I found myself supervising workers on a packaging line.
Within a couple of years, our company was awarded a contract to assemble disposable, one-time use cameras. When the economics of reusing these cameras became favorable, our company was asked to start recycling them also. Our involvement in this business grew to tens of millions of cameras each year. Our company’s success meant more supervisors were needed and managers to oversee the supervisors. Up the corporate ladder I rose.
Too busy to have anything to do with fish now, all my energy was being poured into my career, and finding ways to take it to new heights. Success fueled my competitive fire and I found new avenues of my life to express it. Competitive sports such as softball, golf, volleyball, and bowling offered just that. Academics also proved to fuel the fire. I pursued of a Master of Science in Leadership from my alma mater RWC. The resulting crowning achievement was an appearance in Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities. God was with me then but His voice was becoming increasingly harder to hear. Success trumpeted loudly in my ears, blasting 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. As teenagers, they were more interested in how fast a boat could travel than experiencing the patience of fishing. Their interests included manning a space shuttle and traveling to other worlds on the starship, Enterprise. So when we went for a cottage retreat on a lake, fishing was the lowest priority. Instead, they experienced the thrill of being pulled in a tube behind a speeding boat and chasing after the model rockets launched into the sky’s great expanse. Computers and video gaming were becoming the rage and they fell in love with this sort of technology hook, line and sinker.
My father never gave up on fishing, however, he continued to fish. His patience and steadfastness were richly rewarded whenever 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 spiritual significance 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, or legalism. In grade school I was looked at like a child from another planet when I handed my physical education 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 rejecting legalism had led to rejecting my father. I never felt close to him after that. When the hunger 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 mine. 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)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
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, 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…