Leslie Leyland Fields: Jesus was a real human being. These disciples were real fishermen and tax collectors and they walked on dirty ground and they struggled had doubts and they-- but it was a real world of flesh and blood and mud and water.
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John Fuller: Well this is “Focus on the Family” with Focus president and author Jim Daly. That’s our guest, Leslie Leyland Fields, and she’s back with us again today. I’m John Fuller, and thanks for joining us.
Jim Daly: John, last time we covered so many interesting analogies that Leslie has observed being in a family of fishermen, being a fisherman herself up in Alaska-- Kodiak. I’d love to go up there. How about you?
John: That sounds lovely. Remote, but lovely.
Jim: You’re kind of an Alaskan guy.
John: Well, I’ve been to the state Alaska a couple of times; never to the remote parts like that, though.
Jim: We’ll have to ask her if that qualifies you.
John: Probably not.
Jim: But you know the idea of the fishing vocation and the way you’ve got to work and the hard work that it is, we really covered that last time. If you missed the broadcast, get the download. Call us, we’ll get it to you somehow because there is so much rich information there. Leslie talked about her family, meeting her husband, Duncan, some of the struggles they had in their marriage because of the strain of being fishermen in Alaska and having your entire year’s worth of livelihood on the line, literally, to bring that catch in, to make sure that it would carry you through the season in the off-season. Leslie also went to Israel, and she began to put those pieces together of what it would be like to be back in the time of Jesus being a fisherman, which she said six of the disciples, probably, worked in that area of fishing. And it’s fascinating to hear those analogies. Today we’re gonna come back to Leslie, her book,Crossing the Waters, and further this discussion about the observation of fishing and the Lord Jesus and the disciples and what they learned.
Jim: Leslie, welcome back to Focus.
Leslie: Good to be here again.
Jim: Last time we left off with this imagery that you were creating about Jesus and the disciples being in the storm, the fact that He was asleep, the disciples deciding at what point to wake Him up to say, “Hey, you want to help us here?” And that was all very interesting. I wanted to follow up with another observation you had in your book,Crossing the Waters, where being in the fishing business, fishermen have a tradition that they never leave their nets; they always will finish the catch and make sure the job is done. That’s probably thousands of years old, literally. That caught your attention when it came to the disciples and Jesus basically calling them out. Describe that scene and why it made an impression upon you that they were willing to drop their nets.
Leslie: Yeah, this is just amazing to me, because what you don’t know, what you may not know about fishermen is that they are the most wildly optimistic group of people that I know. They can—Peter fished all night, right?
Jim: That’s true.
Leslie: And he caught nothing, zero. And that happens to us sometimes. There are days when we catch nothing. We’ve had seasons that were disastrous, and there were hardly any fish. But I’ll tell you what, that next season comes around and oh boy, we are ready; we are excited because we’re going to catch a million pounds of fish this next season. You know there’s just this sort of built-in hope and optimism for the next season and the next, no matter what.
Peter’s fished all night; he’s caught nothing.Here comes Jesus, and Jesus calls him away from the nets. And the amazing thing is, of course, that Peter does it. He throws his nets down and he follows Jesus. And fishermen do not do this; fishermen do not walk away from a lifetime of an occupation. He was raised in the boat, he was taught how to fish by his father. As we know, all over the world there’s the guild culture, what you are born into is what you do.
The other piece to this is don’t forget they are part of the Roman Empire. They don’t have the freedom to just go and take any job. They don’t have that kind of mobility that we have. This job, fishing, represents security; it represents their future.
Leslie: Comfort. Survival for their family. It’s everything. This job of commercial fishing is everything.
Jim: Leslie, when you look at this in that context, and again, when we opened the program, we talked about how to apply these things to our modern world. This is a perfect place for the question about God’s call on our lives, that He calls us to follow Him. And we have a choice there. How can we determine what God is calling us to do in our life today? Is He beckoning us from our vocation? Is He saying, “Drop your nets. Drop this, drop that, whatever your vocation is,” and He’s saying, “Follow me”? It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to leave that vocation, but He’s saying, “Let me have your heart, and I will take you on an adventure that will make your life rich and meaningful. And most importantly, it keeps going after this life, because you have everlasting life in Christ.”
Leslie: Absolutely. And you know when He said, “Come follow me,” and that invitation is given to every one of us, “follow me” means literally to walk the same road. And so Jesus is asking us to walk the same road. Now what does this mean? Does this mean we all have to fly to Israel and do what I did and hike the trail around the Sea of Galilee? No. What that means is let’s look at the kind of life that Jesus led. Let’s look at the Gospels. And this is why we have to be immersed in the Gospels to see, all right, what kind of life was that? What did Jesus do? He touched the untouchables. He taught. He healed the sick. He fed the hungry. He loved the unloved. He forgave. That’s how we follow Jesus. That’s the kind of life that He’s calling us to.
John: And our guest today on “Focus on the Family” is Leslie Leyland Fields. We’re talking about some of the content in her book,Crossing the Waters: Following Jesus Through the Storms, the Fish, the Doubt, and the Seas. And we’ve got that and a CD or download of our two-part conversation atfocusonthefamily.com/radio. Or call us if you have questions about what we’ve talked about. If maybe Leslie is prompting you to ask some questions about Jesus. Our number is 800-232-6459.
Just yesterday I was talking to one of my kids, Leslie, about God’s call and what, you know, decision making. How is it that you found yourself, you shared a bit about this yesterday, but how did you find yourself called to Alaska? When was it clear that “this is what God has for me”?
Leslie: You knowI think we’re all looking for these very clear arrows and markers and, you know, we think God’s going to drop little Post-It notes down into our life.
Jim: We’re hoping!
Leslie: And you know it often doesn’t work that way. It’s where we go and the work that we do in some ways is not that consequential. It’s less about what we do and more about who we are. Jesus is calling us into this relationship, into this intense, personal, intimate relationship with Him. “Follow Me.” He doesn’t mean, “Follow me to Cincinnati. Follow me to,” no. It’s like, “Follow me in loving people. Follow me in healing people. Follow me in forgiving people,” and that kind of following, we can do right now. We don’t have to wait. That’s the Post-It note! There it is, right there.
Jim: So many young people that I’ve talked to, you know, they want to find that perfect place on the continuum where they can serve the Lord where they believe God wants them to be. And I ask them just to relax, that to me God’s will is more of a sphere. When you wake up in the morning, I think He wants you to do what gives you pleasure, but just wake up for Him and follow Him every day, no matter if you’re a baker, a fisherman in Alaska, living here in Colorado. Whatever you’re doing.
Leslie: Whatever it is. It’s all holy. It’s all holy. It’s all a holy calling.
Jim: So get up and serve Him during that day. And that brings me to the next question, because the mending of the nets is a great lesson for all of us, because it’s a metaphor for the mending that we need to do in the world on behalf of our call in Christ. Draw that connection.
Leslie: Yeah, so a part of our life, I’ve described a lot about being out in the boat, being out in the water. The other half of our life, which is not nearly as exciting, is mending net. So our nets get all torn up. They get holes from seals, from sea lions, our own engines get caught in the nets and we get these huge, massive holes.
Jim: So you’ve repaired a few nets.
Leslie: I have repaired a lot of nets, indeed. Hours and days and weeks. And so we rack the nets, they’re there on the beach, and we stand there, sometimes it’s a day, sometimes it’s four or five days, sometimes it’s longer, just day after day we’re mending the holes in the net. And it is, it’s this beautiful picture. I want to go back to, um, a story that I talked about yesterday when Duncan yelled at me in the skiff.
Jim: Your husband.
Leslie: My husband, my husband, Duncan, yelled at me in the skiff and-- and I was so angry with him. I stayed mad at him for like three or four days, okay? So now the nets are up, they’re on the beach, we’re mending net. Now in order to mend net, what you have to do, we wear a little pair of scissors around our neck. To fix that hole, you have to cut out all those frayed, broken ends. You cut it all out very neatly in a square or in a rectangle, then you go to another net and you cut out the right size piece and you sew that new hole piece into that hole.
Leslie: And the hole could be, it could be four meshes by seven meshes; it could be 37 meshes by 200. It could take you one minute; it could take you eight hours.
Jim: How big is a mesh?
Leslie: About four inches, four and a half inches.
Jim: So feet. You’re talking feet. Thirty to 40 mesh is big.
Leslie: Exactly. It’s huge. So we’re down in the nets. Duncan is mending, I’m mending, we’re kind of facing each other. I haven’t talked to him for like three days, and I’m cutting out the frayed, broken edges, and I’m sewing in the new, and it’s … and I suddenly see it--
Jim: Right in front of you.
Leslie: --right in front of me that the gospel calls us to mend holes and to repair the torn and broken fabric of relationships, of our culture, of our lives. And I saw into my heart and I saw the pride and the sin and I saw how I was rupturing this relationship. And I knew in that moment, I need to forgive. I need to step down off of my, out of my pride, out of my ego, and just forgive and be reconciled.
Jim: And again what a beautiful illustration of how it should work. It doesn’t mean we’re not going to fall short. We will. The question is what we do when we do fall short. And I love that imagery of being in front of the net. There you are mending the net, putting the new pieces where the old pieces were frayed, and how the Lord quickened you. And I would say, even though it took three days, and that was very vulnerable of you to stay in that place, but that is life.
Leslie: And Jim, the thing about that, if you can envision that net now with a new piece sewn on it, do you know that that new piece, that new net is stronger now than the old net?
Jim: I was going to say that, too. I mean the marriage is stronger, I think, when you have that kind of trust and vulnerability where you’re both coming to grips with doing something inappropriate and then coming back together and saying, “I’m sorry.” That’s the power of forgiveness.
Leslie: It is the power of forgiveness. And my husband and I have been married for 40 years now, and we have been through, you know, many of these cycles, and we’re going to go through many more. But we’re kind of getting good at it.
Jim: Okay. I mean that’s wonderful to hear. And I love that. Celebrate that you’re getting good at it, because we need those models.Someone’s listening right now, maybe many, John; they are in the middle of their storm. The seas are turbulent; they don’t know where God is in this. He’s not calming the storm at this point. Can we faithfully trust God, meaning no matter what our circumstances are, is God present for us, even when there’s big waves?
Leslie: He is. He is, Jim, and I’m—let me, I want to tell you, um, about something that happened out at our fish camp a few years ago that really demonstrated that for me. And I think it was probably one of the hardest days of my life. Let me set it up for you. We had just gotten out to our fish camp island, and I was putting boxes away and suddenly I heard this sound like a cry or scream. I couldn’t quite identify it. And I walked out of the house, I’m looking around, and suddenly I see one of my children collapsed on the trail. I ran to him. It was Noah. He was 13. And his face was covered in blood, he was holding his leg, he was writhing and moaning in pain. And then I saw the ATV off kind of in the grass and I realized what happened. He had broken our helmet rule, ridden the ATV down this steep hill going very, very fast, hit a rock, bounced off, hit a tree with his face, and his leg.
And here he is now, just in pain and this is not the worst of it. It was a very foggy day. The fog was pressed to the ground. You could almost not see your hand in front of your face. And I knew immediately what that meant: that meant that no one could fly.
Jim: Right, you’re in a very remote area.
Leslie: We’re in a remote area; the only way that we can get off the island is by boat or plane; and it had been foggy, zero/zero, for three days. Not a single plane, not a boat had moved. And here’s my son, terribly injured, and what’s gonna happen? In that moment, I am scared to death. I am angry. I am angry at God. “God, how--”
Jim: Why? Why did you go there?
Leslie: “God, how could you let this happen?” Because as parents, you know, we pray that our children will be safe. We want our children to be safe. We want them to be happy. We pray for this. And here’s my son, very badly injured, and I don’t see any way out of this right now. I was also angry at my husband, that he brought me here to this remote place. And all these things run through your mind. Is this … am I a good mother? I brought my kids out as infants out to this far away island, far away from any hospital, from any medical services. All this runs through your head.
I called, shouted for help, and my husband came running. He ran in to the radio, he called to the Coast Guard, and the Coast Guard said, “No, we can’t come. It’s too dangerous. Nobody can fly in this.” When my husband was on the radio with that mayday, someone else heard the call; a man with a bush plane whom we knew. He heard that call and he put his plane in the water and he began that flight out to us. He had to fly all the way around the island, following the cliffs. It’s very dangerous. Kodiak Island is all mountains. He risked his life to fly out to the island. It took, that 30-minute flight, normally 30 minutes, took an hour and a half; the longest hour and a half of my life as we are gathered around my son. My daughter is holding his hand and singing to him. I am praying. The other children are praying. We’re trying to keep him awake and conscious. We’re trying to keep him warm.
The plane finally shows up. We strap Noah onto a door to keep … we don’t know if his neck is injured, his back is injured. We take out the back seat of the float plane, we lift Noah up onto the floor. The pilot looks at us, all of us standing on the beach, you know, stricken with fear. He says, “Who’s going?” And I stepped forward. I said, “I am going.” This is Mama Bear moment. This is- I was not going to leave my son. Duncan saw the look on my face; he said, “Okay, Leslie, you go. I’ll stay with the rest of the kids.”
My going meant that my seven-month-old son, Micah, would go with us because he was still nursing. So I lifted Micah in his infant carrier seat into the plane. I’m kneeling now on the floor of the plane next to Noah, and we take off. We take off, and I can’t see anything outside the windows. It’s like someone is holding a sheet against the windows. There is no visibility.Ten minutes into the flight, suddenly the plane goes vertical; literally vertical, and I know what’s about to happen. I know we’re about to hit a mountain. Those seconds, they were seconds that felt like hours, in those seconds, let me tell you how I should have felt. I should have been scared. My heart should have been pounding wildly in my chest. I could have been angry at God, “God, you’ve failed us twice now. My son just had this accident, and now we’re about to crash into a mountain. God, where are you? How could you? You have failed us twice today and now we’re about to die.”
But that’s not what I felt. My heart was so profoundly calm. One hand on my infant son, one hand on Noah. And I have to tell you, my faith fell away in that moment, because I didn’t need faith anymore, because Jesus was with us. He was with us. I couldn’t see Him. I couldn’t hear Him. But I knew with every cell of my body that Jesus was with us, and that we were safe.
Jim: No matter what.
Leslie: No matter what. We were gonna hit that mountain, I knew it, and it was okay. I was sad for my husband and for my children. I was—all of this is happening in these seconds. I was sad for them that they wouldn’t know that seconds before we hit that mountain that we were okay, that we were safe in Jesus. That has taken away the fear of death for me--
Jim: That calmness.
Leslie: --that I know, Jim, no matter where I am and no matter what happens, I am safe in Jesus, whether I live or whether I die.
Jim: And that’s the beauty of your story. Obviously you didn’t hit the mountain; the Lord intervened; the pilot was able to pull out of that. You landed, your son got the help he needed, obviously, and he’s doing fine.
Leslie: And he’s doing fine. He healed from his injuries.
Jim: Leslie, the truth of that is some people, whatever their story, they did hit the mountain, and it blew up their life. Maybe they didn’t die, but something tragic happened. They lost a child, whatever that story might be. Maybe it’s a prodigal child. Maybe it’s a divorce. It’s their mountain that was in front of them. How do they let go of that bitterness? How do they have that sense that you had, that, “No matter what, Lord, I know that you’re with me?” and then live with the tragedy beyond those years?
Leslie: Yes, and I have to tell you, too, that we have hit the mountain as well. A few years ago, my mother-in-law, my dear, kind, wonderful Jesus-serving mother-in-law died in a fire out at fish camp. Her house burned to the ground, and she was in it and we couldn’t save her. So here’s the question, right, here is the question: what if we follow Jesus and we do hit the mountain? Can we still trust Him? And I say yes.
Leslie: I say yes, no matter what. Jesus didn’t … He never said, “Hey, come follow me. I’ve got this great, happy life. We’re gonna … you’re gonna be prosperous, you’re gonna, nothing bad is ever going to happen. It’s just gonna be fun.” That is not what He promised us. We live in a fallen world. We live in a broken world. And every one of us face mountains. The great good news is that we never face them alone. Jesus is always with us. Even when we can’t see Him or hear Him, he’s still there. He’s still there.
Jim: That’s the beauty.
Leslie: That is the beauty. And nothing is wasted, nothing is without meaning or purpose. It is for our good and it is for the good of the kingdom, and it is for the good of others. We might have to wait a little while before we see that good, but it’s going to come, and we’re going to see it.
Jim: That is so well said, and if you are in a position right now where you’ve hit that mountain or you’re trying to pull out of that mountain, we are here for you. We have a counseling department that would love to talk with you and be able to give you some perspective, hopefully, hope in Christ that there is a way forward. And that’s what you’ve heard in Leslie’s testimony today and her book,Crossing the Waters.
John: Well, I do trust that you will get a copy of the book and a download or CD of our two-part program. A lot of encouragement here, and as you mentioned, Jim, hope. Our counselors can be reached by calling 800-A-FAMILY. They’ll take your name and number and get back to you just as quickly as they can. 800-232-6459. Or you can find help and resources at focusonthefamily.com/radio. And then, if you’re able, please make a generous financial donation to Focus on the Family. We’re only able to help families around the world because of your prayers and financial support. And today when you make a donation of any amount, we’ll send a copy ofCrossing the Watersas our way of saying thank you and making sure this great book gets into your hands.
Jim: Leslie, as we end, someone is over their pain, in your case your child, but they’re over their marriage, they’re over their pain, and they are crying right now as they’re hearing this. What’s that final thought of hope that you can give them?
Leslie: I just want to remind them that Jesus is there with them in that pain, in those tears, and that heartbreak. And I want them to remember that the Jesus we serve is not just a risen Jesus; He’s not just a triumphant Savior; but the Jesus we serve is a crucified Savior. He knows the weight of sorrows, the burden of grief. He has experienced all of that, and He is there with us as we go through those times as well. And that is going to be the shape of our lives and there’s suffering. There’s suffering we’re all going to experience, and the Jesus we serve is a suffering Savior. He is with us there through every moment of it.
Jim: Great to have you with us.
John: Well, once again, our thanks to Leslie Leyland Fields for joining us today and thank you for listening. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, I’m John Fuller, inviting you back next time. We’ll hear from Dr. Robert Lewis about how you can raise your son into a man.
Dr. Robert Lewis: When you can identify some code of conduct that you admire, that you pursue and you call your son up to with real world applications in the midst of the battle of real life, that’s when those words take root and begin to germinate.
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