For the last 16 years, at least once a year we’ve walked the planks on this pier.
During that time, our family has grown from two parents and one tiny baby, the first time. To the same two parents, and no babies anymore. But five grown kids.
Three teenagers, and two more knocking on that same door behind them.
Each time we’ve been here, we’ve been in search of something.
An adventure. A chance to take a deep breath. A chance to repair things that had been lost or broken. An opportunity to reset.
Of course, vacation never delivers nirvana, and in many cases, more acutely exposes the ways the systems are flawed.
The temper gets a little hotter. The fights a little more intense. The sibling rivalry a little more boiling. The ability to be present a little more fleeting.
But in the space, when the noise gets turned down a bit, and the pace slows, one thing that sticks around and surfaces…
The wrestling of the soul.
I’ll tell a silly story to illustrate.
We were on that pier a few nights ago, dropping shrimp-baited lines into the water. Fishing is one of the ways we spend time together here, most often leaving with far less bait than we arrived with, very few fish, but great stories.
“Just a couple more casts dad…”
Silas’ consistent go to every time there’s a rod in hand. His steadfastness is commendable, but sometimes, annoying.
I reeled my line in.
“Ok bro, just a couple more…”
It seems to happen this way, I emotionally check out on the possibilities of the catch, and his attitude stays resilient.
I come right back to the moment, back to him.
“Sweet, keep your tip up…”
My annoying advice that he always knows how to do, kind of like telling a youth pitcher to throw strikes.
“It’s fighting like crazy dad…”
The pier is a good 15 feet to the surface of the water, so you have a nice long look at the fish once she breaks into view.
“What is that son?”
“It’s a shark! A baby one…”
He pulls a flopping and fighting baby hammerhead shark up the 15 feet, and over the pier railing, and lets it squirm and squiggle on the pier planks.
“Holy crap man, that’s so cool buddy…”
The problem is a few minutes before the catch, my father-in-law packed up and headed back to our group on the beach, taking the tackle box with him. I told him too, because we weren’t catching a thing.
The tackle box had the pliers.
We were left with hands. And a shark.
A baby one, but a shark nonetheless.
After the obligatory pictures, we tried to unset the hook.
“Hey dude, let me try this…” I said as I wedged the flopper under my flip-flop, then tried to dislodge the hook. I wasn’t panicked, or terrified, but I certainly was somewhat of a coward.
There was no way I was grabbing the hook like I would from a Missouri lake bass.
Our 11-year-old son, sensing my cowardice, said, “let me try it dad….”
He then proceeded to grab the shark with his hand. Picked it up by its body. And calmly reached in and removed the hook.
In my mind, “umm, yeah, that works better…”
Me out loud, “dang buddy, that was really brave, there was no way I was going to do that.”
His response, “I was kind of scared too, but it wasn’t that bad.”
He tossed baby shark back in the water. We fist-bumped and celebrated. And then instantly text the FL Vibes group that includes his grandparents, his mom, and his sisters…
“SILAS CAUGHT A SHARK!!!”
“you cut the poor thing”
And it continued.
I was ready to cut the line somehow, and leave that thing to fend for itself with a hook in its mouth. Long before I would ever touch it.
And here, our 11-year-old son, looked cowardice (me) in the face, and was brave anyway.
In my own wrestling of the soul, most of the time, there’s a very strong and worthy opponent within.
Full of whispers, full of lies, full of half-truths and never-truths, always against and never for, the voice of the coward finds all the ways something won’t work or shouldn’t be chased.
Many times, that voice wins. And the result is anxiety, discontentment, and a purpose that feels more like a muddy puddle than a roaring sea.
But other times, like Silas showed me, the whispers of the coward get shut up with the actions of courage. And the result is peace, clarity, confidence, conviction, and a purpose that feels like it’s time to set sail on that roaring sea.
Don’t shame the coward, it makes sense why he’d be so scared.
But he doesn’t have to be anymore.
“Let me try it dad…”