It is Well With My Soul
Vol: 54 Issue: 30 Thursday, March 30, 2006
“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, when storm clouds like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.” (Horatio G Spafford, 1873)
I can understand why Jesus loved fishermen and why Jesus loved fishing. Fishing is like chicken soup for the soul — stress melts away like ice cubes in June; slowly, almost imperceptibly, until you suddenly notice you’re drinking a warm soda.
My friend Rick called me the other night to ‘chase some tuna around the ocean’. Rick owns a commercial fishing boat that he generally sends out with a crew while he stays ashore to manage his small manufacturing business.
But I suspect that he got into the commercial fishing business so that he could do what we did Monday — give the crew the day off, go out to sea and leave his worries on the shoreline.
It was a beautiful morning. Dawn was just breaking when we began transferring tackle and supplies from Rick’s pickup to the ‘Scarlet Lady’ in preparation for the trip. Although I’ve known Rick two years now, it was the first time I had been aboard his vessel.
The ‘Scarlet Lady’ is a thirty foot fishing boat manufactured in New England and designed to handle the rough North Atlantic. I think Rick mentioned its origins and seaworthiness to prepare me for a rough ride out — and it was.
I’ve never been prone to seasickness, and, guys being guys, I knew that if I started getting green, I’d never hear the end of it. As the deck pitched under me as we left the Beaufort Inlet and hit the unprotected open ocean, I wasn’t too sure I’d make it.
I breathed a silent prayer while I was working on the boat, rigging the lines, preparing tackle, that kind of thing. The next thing I knew, we were passing Cape Lookout, the last land between us and England, and I knew I could accept the cold turkey sandwich on toast Rick offered me for breakfast without having to make a break for the stern.
It took about three hours to get out to the ‘blue water’ of the Gulf Stream, some forty miles offshore. If you have never seen it, it is quite a sight. For hours, all one can see are waves and sea swells. The water is a beautiful aqua-marine green until you hit the Gulf Stream.
Then, like somebody took a ruler and drew a line across the surface of the ocean, the water turns a beautiful blue. So distinct is that line that, while Rick was setting the rigs, he had me steer the boat along that line, staying twenty yards inside the green water side.
We began trolling that line, which Rick told me, was just outside the ‘temperature break’. The ‘green water’ was about 60 degrees, but inside the Gulf Stream, it shot to 74.
It was awesome. I couldn’t help but marvel at how carefully God has constructed this planet for our use.
The warm water of the Gulf Stream is what provides us with our temperate climate — without that ‘pathway in the sea’ of warm water, our winters would be much colder, and our summers much hotter.
It was out on the Gulf Stream that I began to dwell on the mysteries and magnificence of God and His handiwork that we call Planet Earth.
The Book of Job, is chronologically, the oldest book in the Bible, believed by many scholars to predate Moses. Job lived somewhere in the land-locked Middle East, probably around the time of Abraham, some fourteen hundred years before Moses.
The Book of Job is amazing on many levels, not the least of which was Job’s inexplicable knowledge of science. The Book of Job refers to the permanent polar icecaps; “The waters are hid as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.” (Job 38:30).
God told Job that light is in motion, something modern science didn’t discover until Einstein calculated the speed of light. “Where is the way light dwelleth?” (Job 38:19) Note that Job doesn’t speak of the “PLACE where light dwelleth” but the “WAY” — since light is always in motion.
The Bible is filled with scientific references that are similarly inexplicable, apart from the Divine revelation of God.
Ecclesiastes (1:6) makes reference to wind moving in a cyclonic pattern, rather than in a straight line, as was believed until early in the 20th century, but Job, centuries before, noted that in addition to not blowing in a straight line, air also has weight. “To make the weight for the winds. . .” (Job 28:25)
Job also knew that the ‘earth hangs on nothing’ – contrary to the popular ‘scientific’ explanations of his day that the earth was supported on the shoulders of Atlas, or that it rode on the back of a giant turtle.
In addition to Job, the prophet Isaiah knew, somehow, that the earth is round, although mariners in his day believed the earth was flat and if one went too far out to sea, one would fall off the edge.
“It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth . . . (Isaiah 40:22)
As I maintained our course, twenty yards outside the blue water of the Gulf Stream, I thought of another impossible bit of scientific knowledge revealed in the Book of Psalms; . “. . . whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. . .”
How could Job, living as he did, in the land-locked Middle East, have knowledge of the polar ice caps? How did he know that light was in motion? Who told Isaiah the world was round 2000 years before Columbus, counting on the Psalmist’s description of the ‘paths in the sea’ made his way across the Atlantic Ocean to discover the New World?
One need only troll along the blue water/green water line for Romans 1:20 to make perfect sense: “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)
As we fished, that old hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul” kept playing in my mind. Indeed, out there along the edge of that critical path in the sea, the Gulf Stream, things were VERY well with my soul.
We caught five tuna. I say ‘we’ because we were trolling — it was the boat that ‘caught’ the fish, but Rick made me fight and land them. The first three were nice fish — about 10-12 pounds — not big as yellowfin tuna go, but big enough to be legal.
As I was sitting there fishing, admiring God’s bounty and His provision, surrounded by His creation and little else, we hit our first big one — it felt like I had snagged a freight train going the other way. It was magnificent! I fought that fish for what seemed like hours — probably less than twenty minutes — before Rick was able to gaff it and bring it aboard.
What nobody knew but me was that if that fish had fought five more seconds, or if he had taken an extra couple of feet of line, he probably would have won the fight.
When the next one hit, I actually tried to get Rick to fight that one, but he wouldn’t hear of it. So the battle was on. After another epic battle (one that I am sure someone will one day write a song about), there was a forty-seven pound tuna flopping on the deck (right beside a fifty-two year old writer with muscle cramps).
At dark, we headed back to shore and cleaned the tuna on the boat dockside. Rick divided up the catch between us. Gayle and I packaged up our bounty into individual freezer bags, hosed me down with Ben-Gay and I crawled gingerly into bed, falling asleep before my head hit the pillow.
It is well with my soul.
This column first published in April ’05. Captain Rick called me about an hour ago and asked me if I wanted to go chase some tuna around the ocean again this morning. I couldn’t say no.