Last Sunday was one of the beautiful days – warm and sunny and weekendy. When evening came, Eric’s dad got his fishing boat ready, while we got Owen ready. Sunblock, hat, snacks, carseat, as Owen, over and over again, happily informed us: “Me goin’ fishing!”
Yes, Owen was going fishing. He had gone fishing with my dad earlier in the month, and since then every stick we’d come across had become his fishing pole. He would cast it, pretend to reel, and then yell, for all the playground to hear: “I got a big one!” Over and over and over. And now, we were about to go fishing. On a boat. And I thought he was going to hyperventilate.
Earlier in the day, Grandpa Ron and Eric had taken him out to buy his very own little kid-sized fishing pole, inappropriately named “The Dock Demon.” On the way to the boat launch, all we heard from the back seat was, “Mom? Where’s my fishing pole?” Over and over and over.
After we’d motored out to a fishy spot, we threaded a worm on his hook, cast his line, and handed him his rod. He was beaming. Looking out at the water with a type of confidence only a two-year-old can have.
The minutes wore on, and despite Owen’s calls of “Here, Fishyfishyfishy,” he wasn’t catching anything. I moved closer to him, saying, “Owen, here, let me help you cast it again to a different spot.” But as I tried to help him, I was swatted away with a sharp “Noooo!”
I backed off. A few minutes later, Eric tried to help again, and received the same response. We shrugged at each other and gave him some space. Then, Grandpa Ron hooked a big bass on his own pole, and in a Grandpa-like move, he motioned to hand Owen his pole, saying, “Here, Owen, try this one!”
Eric moved to grab Owen’s little pole so he could take Grandpa Ron’s and actually catch a fish. But we had underestimated his sense of ownership of The Dock Demon. Before we knew it, he was screaming “NOOOOOO! MIIIIINE! ISSSSSSSSS MYYYYYYY FIIIIIIIIIISHING POLLLLLEEE!” loud enough to scare all of the fish in the lake back to the Mississippi River.
He turned red and continued to scream well after we’d returned his fishing pole. He was totally immune to the big fish pulled into the boat, to the calmness of the water, to the big sky, with its perfect blue. He forgot about the sun and its warmth. About the sound of gentle waves hitting the boat, the gentle motion of being on water.
His utter focus on what was his consumed him and made him completely unable to see that we were trying to help him, trying to enrich his experience, to make it more full, more fun. So, he spent the rest of the time on the water, with his Dock Demon bobber floating purposely in the water, not catching any fish.
As we motored back to the boat launch, I thought about Owen. About his white-knuckled grip on his fishing pole. And about all he’d missed out on that evening. I was struck with a glimpse into myself. So often, my own knuckles are white around what means most to me – my son, my daughter, my husband. Awake in the night, my grip tightens on them - What if Eric dies next year? What if Owen was kidnapped? What if my relationship with Elsa is broken someday? – and in my worrying, I call them mine.
So quickly I lose sight of the fact that these three people – they are not mine, they are gifts. I hold tightly to them, and in doing so, I wonder at how much I am resisting God, screaming NO! to his plan for me, his plan for them, his plan to make our lives more full, more abundant.
There are times when I forget to truly hear the sound of Owen’s maniacal toddler laugh, to truly look at the blue of Elsa’s eyes, to truly feel the warmth of Eric’s shoulder against mine when we sit together at night, to fully enjoy these moments for what they are – beautiful, fleeting gifts.
I drove Owen home that night for bedtime while Eric and his dad continued to fish. We drove together down a beautiful country road, the sun golden through our minivan windows. I looked at Owen in my rearview mirror, as he looked up at the sky rushing past.
As we drove, I prayed that God would remind me daily that this life – all of it – is a gift. That these people I love so dearly are not mine…but His. And that His hands are far bigger and more capable than my own. I prayed that in the opening of my hands, I would step closer to the fullness of life that He promises and is eager to give.
I pray that He would unclench my fist.