Last week I went fishing with my dad. I've been fishing with my dad three dozen times, but never as an adult and never on a boat. This time we'd be on a boat.
The night before the trip I took one small Dramamine pill. The next morning I woke too early, climbed into ugly clothes, pulled my hair into a baseball cap, and piled into the truck with Justin, my dad, my cousin Timmy, and his wife. We drove to the southernmost tip of Pinellas County, bought two giant buckets of shrimp, put our small boat in the water, and sped away.
And away. And away.
If you've never been offshore fishing (or maybe on a cruise), you can't understand the feeling that comes with watching land slip away. One moment, everything makes sense. You can see the bridge, cell phone towers, the marina. And then nothing. Not one physical landmark for gauging location.
On a small boat the feeling is magnified as you can stand in one place and see water hurrying to horizons in every direction. Your entire field of vision is water. For a girl who lives on land, the absence of land completely upsets.
Once we'd lost the land, we kept driving, plowing through waves, rising and falling with body-jarring irregularity. We drove so far we passed container ships.
When we finally stopped, I felt like I'd been dropped on another planet.
There's this scene in the movie Interstellar where astronauts land on a planet covered in undulating water but the water is only a couple feet deep. It's striking in the movie--how something so familiar could seem so otherworldly. But out at sea, surrounded by water that is definitely not a few feet deep--water concealing another world, water like air to billions and billions of creatures, water lapping the tops of undersea mountains and settling in trenches 10, 994 meters below the surface--out there, you cannot help but feel displaced.
My first fish of the day was a Spade. They look like this:
I put a shrimp on my hook, dropped my line 40 feet, and a minute later pulled up this fish. This beautiful fish. Looking at it emerging from the inky water, I realized there were other fish below the boat, probably hundreds of fish, other Spade fish like this one, all of them living lives and doing fish stuff. And I couldn't see any of them. But just because I couldn't see them didn't mean they weren't there.
I can't explain how hard this was to fathom.
Because it felt like I was dropping my line into nothing, like fishing was some sort of magic trick where you drop a hook into a hat and pull out a fish.
As the day went on, things just kept coming up out of the water.
We caught dozens of Skamp, Snapper and Grouper. While reeling in a Skamp (cousin to the Grouper), my dad almost hooked a five or six foot shark. One second we can't see a single thing in the water and the next moment we're looking at the white belly and steel grey fin of shark longer than I am tall.
A few minutes later we saw a sea turtle.
My dad caught an African Pompano--the crazy fish pictured at the top of this post, the one with the pompadour fins.
At one point Justin caught a fish, almost immediately felt a terrible jerk, and then watched his line snap, his reel whiz. "What was that?" he asked my dad. "Probably a Goliath," Dad said. And by that he meant a 400-500 pound Goliath Grouper.
And then I caught this:
It's a Hogfish. Evidently it's a pretty rare fish to catch. And it's gorgeous. What you can't tell from the picture is that each scale is rimmed in green. And its eyes--that spot that appears black in the center, it's actually emerald. I'm holding this fish for the picture and it's squirming and flopping, glistening in the light, looking stunningly beautiful, and I can't help but feel like I'm holding something other-worldly.
I spent a few hours tonight zooming around the Internet watching ocean videos. Did you know we humans have explored only 4% of the ocean?
And we've explored less of space, of course.
Cosmologists believe no matter how much of space or the ocean we explore, we'll never see more than 4% of the universe. Because that's all that's visible. This may sound crazy, but it's scientifically documented that almost 96% of the matter and mass of the universe isn't reactive to light and can't be seen. That means it's here, close even, but you don't have the ability to perceive it.
And yet, we humans walk around living and talking and planning and doing, philosophizing, preaching and ranting like we know everything, like we can plan for any circumstance. We buy insurance for $500 scooters and follow the directions from Google maps and go to college, and all of it makes us feel certain and sure, empowered--like we're protected from mystery and surprise.
And all the while, we see 4% of what's directly under our noses.
We have greatly underestimated the unseen.
Being out on that boat the other day reminded me that every day I'm walking in and beside and toward an invisible kingdom, a kingdom older and real-er than anything I've ever known. Beyond my ability to perceive it, forces of light and dark wage war, God's will advancing across a cosmic battleground. There is more happening than I can see. In fact, I can't see most of what's happening.
But every once in a while I'll catch a fish and through the veiled border between Here and There I'll watch a treasure emerge, evidence of something near and other, something wet with light and love, something that does not belong in this place, something I will hold onto with clenched fists, something I will see and see through, this artifact from a place more true than here...
Mornings with my husband and daughters in bed, drinking coffee, golden light spilling through the windows--no one fighting, everyone encouraging, lovely words like prayers spilling from every smiling mouth.
Moments in counseling when truth, like the yolk of a perfectly cooked fried egg pricked, spreads and seeps into slowly softening hearts.
When a friend confesses betrayal in the car, crying, and instead of feeling angry, some force takes over and I feel only joy at the gift of being able to offer forgiveness.
Sentences in the book of John (and in Dickens, too), simply better and truer than words humans speak.
The view from Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic Mountains, where the air is thinner and cleaner and the snow is perfectly white and the only sounds I hear are my daughters' excited voices as they spot a deer.
Singing hymns in a tiny, crowded bathroom with new friends in Costa Rica.
Singing hymns in China in Chinese and English, both together, lyrics simultaneously foreign and familiar to us all.
Singing hymns at midnight on the beach three nights after my brother died, all of his friends singing around me, holding me with the strength of their faith-drenched voices.
The Kingdom is close. And breaking through. Every day I chase it, peeking behind curtains and under rugs, looking, looking, looking, aching to see what I can't but sometimes can.
The Apostle Paul said, "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
Looking at what you can't see isn't always easy. It's hard enough to remember the invisible exists, that it's here, close. But if we'll try, if we'll drop our line into the inky depths, we may very well see the unseen.
Or at least catch a glimpse.