KENO — If you know, intellectually, that you have a lot to be thankful for but still feel that emptiness closing in on you from all sides, this column is for you.
If you’ve ever felt bad for not being content with what seems to outside observers like a blessed life, same.
Many don’t know what it feels like to be truly lost, to know the desperation and agonizing loneliness of being adrift in the churning seas of life — both literally and figuratively.
I hesitated writing this column because “People might think less of you,” and “Some things should be left private,” right?
I’ve received many emails over the years telling me how my column helps people. It’s not just about fishing; it’s so much more than that.
I believe God put me in a position where up to 100,000 people read my words each week for a reason. If this column helps even one person, it’s worth it.
I was lost.
It started with a rough week professionally.
Then, things changed with the girl I’d fallen in love with who didn’t feel the same way.
Together, the dark clouds triggered an involuntary all-nighter. I couldn’t sleep a wink, despite giving it my best effort.
I got up from my restlessness Saturday morning and took out my boat.
Trolling, paying close attention to my fishfinder and every one of the dozens of rocks I’d marked there, my mind was elsewhere, and I failed to notice one large rock until I smashed into it.
My engine died and sprung a gas leak. Like, a bad leak. I have no idea how engines work or how babies are made, but miraculously, I jury-rigged a plug and motored 20-plus minutes back to the boat ramp, watching enough gas fly out the back that the EPA probably has me on a watchlist now.
I made it and got the boat squared away, but the day was over, and trout fishing was off the table. Needing a win, I went night fishing for a sculpin I haven’t caught yet.
I’d been given a new spot to try that night, so I parked within a mile of it where the road stopped, put down a pin on my Apple Maps app to mark my car and started walking.
After an hour of fruitless fishing in too-windy conditions, I started back.
When I returned to my pin, no car.
My heart sank as I realized the app hadn’t worked, and I was lost. Not just “Honey stop and ask for directions lost,” but like, writers of Season Six of the show “LOST” lost.
Carrying an armful of gear, I wandered around for over an hour in wet, heavy waders, spiraling quickly.
No roads, waterways or service.
For the first time in 1,500-plus fishing trips, I was truly lost and alone.
It was cold, my headlamp only had so much juice, my phone was dying, and I was praying, yelling, and whimpering in unlovely fashion.
I pulled out my keys and clicked the remote. No sound.
Upon entering a clearing, I recognized as a path for the buried pipeline, I knew it would lead to a road. I got down on my knees to stretch my back and check for service. Still no.
I resumed walking.
When, 10 minutes later, I realized I didn’t have my keys, I broke.
I’d left them on the ground when I kneeled. Where, though?!
Abject terror and hopelessness gripped me, and I called my parents (I had cell service, just not data, for some reason). They offered to come help me, and not long before they would have arrived, I combed the entire clear cut as though pushing a lawnmower and found my keys. Eventually, I found my car.
I’d gone five miles in my waders according to my pedometer app, which was also working when Maps wouldn’t.
The next day, I reflected.
Though I had every intention of hitting the river that night, I just couldn’t risk another defeat.
Fishing has long been my main source of happiness, but there’s more to life.
Over the past few months, I’ve learned to value relationships with other people more than ever before. More importantly, I’ve grown in my Christian faith by leaps and bounds.
The reality is, life will chew you up and spit you out. You will bend. You will break. You will find yourself ugly crying, sweating, and shivering in the middle of the woods at night with the faint smell of marine gasoline on your hands repulsing you each time you wipe your eyes. Well, maybe not exactly that, but close.
Relying on anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ as your source of strength and joy will let you down.
Jesus loves you. If you’re tired of feeling lost and alone and broken, reach out to Him. Accept His unconditional love and put your faith in Him.
A verse in the Bible, Romans 10:9, says that “If you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
That’s a strange concept for those not raised in the church, coming back from the dead, but it showcases His power over death and darkness. He died for us, and He wants us to live for Him.
Another verse, Deuteronomy 31:6 says “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you.”
I’ve been fighting and feeling so broken, but we’re all broken. Time for me to just know God is in control, to follow the words of Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.”
Should you? Only if you’ve been fishing for something you just can’t seem to find your entire life. Only if you want to see some light amidst the darkness.
You won’t feel immediately better. Faith doesn’t transform your life in a single moment, but it gives you hope, hope for a better tomorrow.
This week, you probably do have something to be thankful for, but tomorrow, with that hope, you might have just a little more.
More than anything, I’m thankful for hope.