Snapped fishing line and the strain of life

A week before we departed for Topsail Island, North Carolina, I started prepping my fishing gear.

Last summer, the house where we stayed had access to the sound side of the island. It was a short walk down the side street.

On that walk, I admiringly gazed at other houses and loved a pretty stand of live oak trees. On an undeveloped point of land, I could easily cast into the early dawn stillness of the sound and watch the pastels of the sunrise forming in the eastern sky.

For this trip, I was hoping I would have a similar sound access. We were staying in a different house, and it was tough to determine from a Google map if the sound would be approachable.

I let my hopefulness to have sound access cloud my thinking. I organized three lightweight fishing rods, and my fly rod to take with me. I opted not to take a rod that was strong enough to handle the unpredictable whims of surf fishing in the ocean.

Not taking a surf rod with me turned out to be a mistake. The house where we stayed did not have access to the sound. This meant I would be relying on those lightweight fishing rods to cast into the Atlantic.

I picked up some shrimp bait at the IGA grocery store in Surf City. Two of the rods, I set up with lures for casting, and one I set up with a fish finder rig. The fish finder consists of a hook and a sinker slider that holds the weight.

On the days I fished in the ocean, there was a steady wind from the south. This wind churned up the surf. That chaotic surf would not be ideal for my lightweight rods.

A couple of times I was excited. I could feel the nibble of a fish. Once, there was a really strong tug on the line, but the tugger disappeared. And one day, a good sized crab hitched a ride up to the shore after devouring the shrimp bait.

But two times during the week, I snapped the fishing line. The light line couldn’t take the stress of the cast with the two ounce weight. Sadly, I tainted the surf with a lost hook, weight, and fishing line. I hoped that the roiling surf would bury the lost tackle so it wouldn’t hurt a swimmer or a sea creature.

In the late sixties, singer-songwriter, Jimmy Webb, had quite a run of luck with songs he wrote that were recorded by other artist.

One of my favorites, “Wichita Lineman,” was a hit for Glen Campbell.

As the title implies, the song is about a lineman who takes care of miles of telephone lines stretched from pole to pole in the flat plains of Kansas. Webb also weaves in the contemplative emotions of a relationship.

For some reason, this line from the song always catches my attention: “And if it snows that stretch down south won’t ever stand the strain.”

Growing up in the south, I’ve seen those lines snap under the strain of a heavy wet snow or from the weight of a coating of ice from an ice storm.

My fishing line couldn’t withstand the strain of my casting action and snapped.

And as sure as I am writing these words, somewhere today, someone in this world is going to snap from the strain of life.

Earlier this summer, I reached out to a painting contractor to take a look at an exterior project at the front entrance to the sanctuary of our church. I was tardy in meeting the appointment time, but the contractor was patient with me.

Once we had completed discussing the pending project, I walked him back to his car.

I had worked with this contractor on another church project, and I guess for whatever reason he felt comfortable in talking with me.

For the next several minutes, he unloaded his strain—health challenges.

A rare tick bite had totally disrupted his normal diet and digestive system. Last year, he underwent significant surgery related to his prostrate gland. And he shared that his wife had challenges with her thyroid gland.

Now, here is the challenge with the painting contractor’s unloading the strain of living—his outward appearance didn’t reveal these difficulties, and in truth neither did my snapped fishing line.

Everyday we encounter people who appear to be fine, normal, and yet, we don’t know the strain and stress that remains unseen or untold to us.

My two snapped fishing lines are nothing compared to what another person might be carrying.

I will never know why the painting contractor opened up to me.

And as I listened, I never thought about how to respond. I just listened.

Maybe that was all he needed—someone to listen.

His story has stayed with me.

I wonder if I have another encounter like this—how will I respond?

With lots of care and diligence, the Wichita lineman watched over the telephone lines.

To our left and right, in front of us, behind us, on a walk, at an intersection, in a meeting, in the aisle of a grocery store, and sitting in a church pew we have friends, neighbors, family, co-workers, and strangers who are strained, stressed, and weary.

Who is watching over them?

Could part of that answer be found in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

A human fishing line is going to snap today.

Someone will need you, me, we, and us.

How will you, me, we, and us respond?

Can our hearts help that person find rest from the strain?

Rain storm over the ocean at low tide Topsail Island, North Carolina Photo by Bill Pike

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