Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed. Genesis 27:27
He’s always started his prayers just like his Daddy.
“Dear Lord, thank you for this day. Thank you for this wonderful time together.”
When I heard him mumbling those words quietly, I glanced across the shanty and saw him hovered over the basketball-sized hole, peering intently down into the icy water.
He prays when he fishes.
“Help me to get a big fish if you want me to, Lord.”
When we looked at the calendar and realized he and his dad wouldn’t get another chance to fish together before the derby ended, I looked into those big blue eyes, those eyes I’ve looked into every single day for the whole life of my mothering, eyes afraid to well with tears because Mom was there. Because he’s eleven now. Because he understands that with Daddy’s great new shift at work there are going to be sacrifices too. It’s a great new shift, he knew that. But his eyes misted over even so.
There is nothing this kid likes to do more than fish with his father.
“Could I do that son? Could I take you?”
“All of us?” He knows with Dad at work, the five of us are joined at the hip. He knows how wild our adventures can get with his three younger siblings. He knows how weathering the wildness can sometimes take a toll on Mama’s patience.
“I think we could do it,” I tell him.
And so it was, after he and his Dad, the night before, had packed up all the gear we’d need -tackle, poles, chairs, tent- and Mama and daughter had packed up all the goodies we’d need -coco, snack packs, water bottles, sandwiches- we called Daddy, working hard on a Saturday, and told him we were rolling out.
My boy prayed then too.
Prayed thankfulness for Creation. For this family. For Daddy. For low wind. For fish.
For Mama to have patience.
We had a blast. We were there early and our fishing friend who had planned to meet us to take a power machine-auger-thing and drill some holes for us wasn’t quite there yet. So my boy and I did it. We took the handles and we let the motor rip and we pushed and pulled and rocked and then whooshhh…the water appeared, a mini-geyser up over the snow volcano we’d made.
We cheered like we’d just won the Super Bowl.
And the tent only blew away once before our friend got there to check on us. He chased it down with his snowmachine, showed us how to screw the stakes into the ice.
My girl, not much for fishing, handed out snacks and told stories to her little siblings while they half-heartedly fished, kept them enraptured with tales of grumpy fish families, using tackle and bait as props, their eyes big and watching her every move.
My boy and I fished for real. For hours. Just like he and his dad do.
And even in the irritating midst of buckets scraping across the snow and big fish having a stare down with the bait before swimming off arrogantly and my preschooler being rambunctious and floppy and a reel falling off and diving down deep before I could finally pull it back up…
…I smiled big on the way home.
And my heart understood why my boy loves this time with his Dad so much.
Why most every weekend, and a few times in between, he wonders out loud if they’ll be able to go fishing soon. Why, on Sunday my husband will casually ask me what we’ve got going in the coming week and I know exactly what he’s really asking: “When’s a good time to take my boy fishing?”
It’s because when they’re fishing, they’re really praying too.
In the quiet, subdued, much-calmer-now-than-it-was-when-he-was-little way that my boy casually says “fish on” when his pole bends sharp, his heart is praying grateful to God, the One who made that fish, gave him that fish, the One who hears “Thank you for helping me catch that fish Lord” as the hooked catch flops up onto the ice.
In the tromping across the snow, the spruce trees black against the afternoon sun, rimming the flatness of the lake, a spirit prays free and content, breathes in the air, the Creation, the beauty…all hand designed by the ultimate Artist.
In the mercy of deciding which fish to keep, which one to throw back, my boy’s hands pray compassion and kindness as they quickly end the suffering of the gulping creature he’s been given, talking gently as he does it.
In the counting, the arranging, the packing, he prays marvel at the patterns of the fish skin, the colors of the scales, the shape of the fins, the intricacies of this aquatic masterpiece.
And in the cleaning, the bloody part, he’s praying gratitude for the provision, for the life of the fish and the nutrition it will provide, but also for Another too, whose body was made messy to forgive our sins and feed our soul when He gave us His life.
The undercurrent of it all is a heart praying thankful for the time he gets with his Dad. Praying thankful for this bonding that takes place on the ice, the love happening there, the hours that put down beautiful coats of memories…precious paint on the house of this family.
And Mama prays thankful too. Prays thankful to be part of this precious treasure my son has with his father. Thankful he’s let me into a world that has mostly been just theirs. Thankful he’s followed his Dad’s teachings; that he knew just what to do when it was time to pack the sled…when the fish weren’t biting… when it was time to clean the catch.
A couple mornings later, I read a blog post about keeping our boys pure today, how to help them be strong in a weak world, turn their hearts away from the temptations our culture offers them daily and I think of my boy and his love for fishing. The love he has for his family. His contentment that comes just from having time with his father. With me. With his siblings.
As I read, I think of our day fishing. The monumental little day it really was. How it was the start, and the continuum too, of something big. Something that could be key his whole life, a focus of his heart. A place for him to go when he’s faced with less than godly destinations, impure opportunities.
The thankful keeps coming. For a husband who has taken all this time all these years to teach our children. To teach them gently and quietly and lovingly and manly. For a boy who loves the outdoors and loves his family, who’d rather be with us than anyone else, a boy who delights in doing things with his closest loved ones.
And I do just like my boy does, my son.
I pray thankful.
Thankful to the One who made the fish, the water, our son. Who gave him to us, who gives us glimpses into his heart. The One who gently leads those who have young, who showed me that day exactly how important and precious these times are for my son, for my husband. How faith-building.
I pray thankful to the One who has shown me what a good thing it is, what beauty takes place when we know the hearts of our children, when we know how much our boy loves to be with his people, when we get a peek at the urgency of this season with him.
“Thank you for this day”…
I pray thanks to the One who gave me the courage to take my little flock out that cold day. The One who has shown me how much He’ll bless this family…bless me…my husband…our kids …when we keep our boy right where he loves to be most…
…Out on the ice.
“Thank you for this wonderful time together…”
(C. Rankin, age 11)
I was fishing one day
that the fish might bite.
Maybe it will be big
and I might take home a prize and be proud.
But fun with dad, out on the lake,
just me and him and the fish,
there is the real prize.
Me and Dad
(C. Rankin, age 11)
The lake was bubbling with trout
and a few tan streaks of dolly.
I whip the shiny spoon into the frenzy
me and dad side by side having fun yelling fish-on
laughing at the power the fish have hitting our spoons so hard
our reels jump
shake like a snake
me and dad side by side having fun and yelling fish-on.
© This Crazy Little Farm