You’ve probably heard the proverb, ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’.
It’s a good one. It makes sense at an everyday human level, but if we delve a little more deeply, it’s actually telling us how the universe works. You know that guidebook everyone says we didn’t come to earth with? Well, that proverb is your guidebook.
Re-read it like this: ‘God/Life doesn’t throw fish (= rescue you, solve your problems); God/Life provides you with the experiences that will teach you how to fish (= how to be resourceful and powerful in your own life).
Think about it. If you wanted to teach someone patience, would you put them in circumstances where everything easily and quickly went their way, or would you put them in circumstances where they were going to have to work for what they wanted, were going to have to persist and wait and thus develop patience?
The latter, right? It’s obvious, albeit annoying! We want the fish!!!! Right now, in our laps! Instead, a rod is shoved into our hands and we’re pushed out into the weather.
When we resist the rod, we literally make a rod for our backs – if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphors! But hoping/praying for a solution isn’t the answer either; the answer is to take the rod and use it – to learn how to bait the hook and balance ourselves in the boat and wait for the tug and distinguish between what is useful and what is not and be strong enough to reel in the good stuff…
Life will see to it that we receive the challenges that cause us to grow in the right direction – and grow enough to solve the problem ourselves.
A couple of years ago my son called home to let us know that he had been pulled over by the police because his P plate was missing from the rear window. It had been on, he assured us, but the windows had been open since it was a blowy summer day, and the thing had fallen off in the wind without him realising it. He had explained all this, but the young cop wasn’t interested and gave him a ticket.
Jeremy was understandably upset, especially as the demerit points put him in jeopardy of losing his license, which would affect his work, and because he hadn’t been driving irresponsibly at all; the cop was just making a petty point. But the more he thought about it, the more he saw the beauty and the order in the experience, and his insights truly generated magic.
As a teenager, Jeremy couldn’t wait to get his license and have the freedom of the roads; as a 21 year old apprentice mechanic doing a forty-five minute commute to work, he was totally over driving and spent the time feeling irritated by road rules and stop signs and red lights and other drivers and the drivel on the radio. Faced with his ticket, he suddenly realised that the universe was effectively saying, ‘You don’t want to drive? Okay, don’t’.
From that point on, he was completely non-resistant to the lesson. If he was going to lose his license, so be it. If he was going to have to move closer to work, ride a bike, so be it. He didn’t become passive – he wrote to the officer in question asking him to reconsider, but was ignored; however, having contested the charge, he was summoned to court for a hearing, and that was where the magic happened.
The Magistrate was surprised to see him there and explained that there was nothing she could do about his points, especially if he pleaded guilty to the offense, which he was doing. However both she and the Police Prosecutor were impressed by his demeanor. The Prosecutor took it upon himself to cancel the ticket, which meant no points, no fine; not only that, but the officer who had charged Jeremy would probably be ticked off and the Police would foot the court costs. We left in a daze.
This was God/Life at its best: instead of tossing Jeremy a fish (magically making the traffic flow, ensuring that he always followed all road rules, sending a reasonable cop), God/Life gave him a rod (a lesson-opportunity to step up in responsibility and see how he was the creator of his life; to recognise the cause-effect dynamic at work in that experience).
It was his own thought that had called in the experience, and when he acknowledged that, there was no longer any need for him to have the rest of the experience. Since he didn’t resist it, since he surrendered to the lesson, it transformed right in front of him. The fish turned into a prince. (Sorry, another mixed metaphor. Fish, frogs… you get my point…)
All those hard experiences and lessons and challenges are God/Life teaching us how to fish, or how to create a rich and fulfilling life where we are able to sustain ourselves and be masters instead of victims. When we perceive the opportunity in the lesson, we are able to transform it into something that will enrich the rest of our lives.