(This is a reprint of a May 11, 2005 post from my old, now defunct blog. I thought it was a story worth sharing again. Enjoy!)
Recently, I had the opportunity to take my boys out fishing the flats of Tampa Bay. We had an incredible day, filled with sunshine, cooling breezes, and lots of fish hitting our lines. We managed to boat most of them, keeping only a few nice size sea trout for dinner. We caught all of our target fish – snook, redfish, and trout – a grand slam. We also caught a couple of bluefish and a black tip shark.
The highlight of my day came shortly after we arrived at our last chosen fishing spot. Our watchful captain spotted a couple of sizable cobia riding the wings of a large stingray, as they are prone to do. As luck would have it, they were swimming in the general direction of our bait. One peeled away from the ray to take my son’s bait, but unfortunately missed the hook and swam off. The other cobia and the ray turned away from the shore and also disappeared from our view.
A short time later, the other cobia and the ray (or another, we can’t know for sure) reappeared near the shoreline, but turned and swam the other direction away from the boat. Our captain quickly fired up the motor and circled around in an attempt to put us in a favorable position for another attempt. Even though we were not really geared up for a fish of this size and strength, the temptation was just too much to resist.
Sure enough, the ray and his wingman swam in our direction, and I quickly cast my baitfish in front of them. The cobia saw my bait and made a run for it. My bobber disappeared under the surface, I waited a couple of seconds, and then set the hook. My reel screamed in delight as the fish made a run away from the boat and time stopped for a while. The boys scrambled for the cameras to capture the saga.
For the next 20 some odd minutes, it was a vicious struggle of man versus fish. My light tackle was tested to the limits as the 40? (dare we estimate) long beast strained to keep away from the boat. Each time I got him close enough to make a net attempt, he would make another run away from the boat. We were quite concerned about the light leader’s ability to hold up much longer against the constant pull of this incredibly strong fish. We figured the sooner we could get him into the boat, the better chance we had of bringing him home. We knew if we could just get him into the net, we’d have him.
Finally, the fish began to tire, but not before my arms began to ache (what a great feeling!). I brought him near the boat, and pulled him up to the surface and the captain got into position with the net. In a coordinated effort, I steered the fish toward the waiting net. Success was mere seconds away!
As the net closed around the beast, he didn’t even slow down. Instead, he reached down deep inside, and with a thrust of his powerful tail, he pushed right through the bottom of the net as though it were made of paper. The weakened leader snapped, and in an instant, he was gone.
What looked like a certain victory for me turned into a sudden disappointment. I had placed my faith entirely upon the net’s ability to hold that fish. It never occurred to me that a fish could break through something as strong as that net. I assumed once he was safely inside, he was mine.
But the fish had a different perspective. It was his Moment of Truth. He didn’t stop to think of how strong that net must be, and how difficult it would be to break through it. He didn’t stop to think about how hard he had fought and how tired he was and how he was now facing the biggest challenge of his life at the very moment he was at his weakest. He simply saw that net as a barrier that had to be broken if he was going to live another day. He reached down deep inside, and pulled on that reserve of energy that is available to all of God’s creatures in times like these. And he moved from certain death to precious freedom in the blink of an eye.
So often we find ourselves in the Moment of Truth. The enemy plays us into his trap, wearing us down, and then, at our weakest moment, closes in for the kill. In that moment – the Moment of Truth, we can reach down deep inside and pull out that breakthrough strength that God provides for us in moments like this. We must never allow obstacles to become nets of death around us. There is always a rescue, if we call upon God and exercise faith in the Moment of Truth. And we too will leave the enemy with a shattered and empty net.
In the end, I was very happy, having had the opportunity to struggle with this fish. Like my father, I like to imagine that the ones that get away grow up to become the biggest and the strongest. And fortunately, we have the struggle on video tape, so I can enjoy it whenever I want to re-live the experience. It was a very good day, in my book of days.