Cormorant Fishing

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We felt our way onto the creaky boat as our eyes deliberately adjusted to the inky blackness of night. Easing quietly onto the wooden slats that would be our seating for the next hour, I could only imagine the mountainous shoreline I’d seen earlier in the day. As darkness quickly swallowed the bank of the Li River, we wondered if our sight-seeing trip would offer any views at all.

The sputtering motor headed toward a pinpoint of light. As we neared the glow, we could make out a flat bamboo raft with a singular bearded captain. Wearing a cane coolie hat, this Chinese fisherman supported a long wooden pole across his back. Perched along his pole were several of the birds we’d come to see. 

Our boatman turned off his motor and we sat in silence as the cormorant began their work. The clipped wings of the cormorant could not fly, but each seemed very eager to fish. Sometimes on their own accord and sometimes prompted by the end of the bamboo pole, the birds dove repeatedly into the ebony waters of the Li. 

More often than not, a bird would resurface onto the raft with a rather large fish in his mouth.  With expert quickness, the fisherman separated the fish from the bird and coaxed the cormorant into the water yet again. 

Straining my eyes in the blackness, I could vaguely discern why the cormorant fished but did not swallow his catch. A thin metal collar constricting the bird’s neck allowed only smaller fish to slip down his throat. Anything larger was claimed by the fisherman. Although the cormorant ate scraps provided by their owners, they were prevented from true freedom by the presence of the choker

As I think back over my experience with the cormorant, I realize that I too can wear a restrictive collar. Rather than one made of metal, mine usually consists of worry and anxiety. Apprehension sometimes constricts my ability to believe as surely as a band restricts the fish from the cormorant. 

Restlessness and scattered thoughts are signals in my life that I am narrowed by worry rather than soaring in freedom. Unexplained fatigue and irritability are also red flags to doubting God’s omnipotence. The Word of God Himself clearly speaks that “worries of the world….choke the Word” (Mark 4:19).

Unfortunately, the worry can also constrict my prayer life, causing God’s answers to seem no more abundant than scraps to a bird. If you think about it, faith and prayer are usually connected in the Bible. Jesus went so far as to say that, “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24 NLT). The largeness of this promise is staggering. When I believe God is as big as He claims to be, I’m freed from my collar of worry into the fulness of God (Ephesians 3:19).

Seeing Him is the key to empowered prayer. Once He is clearly in view, I can rest in the conviction that He will complete what He begins (Philippians 1:6). “The Lord of hosts has sworn saying, “Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand” (Isaiah 14:24). Hard to believe? Not once you hear Him speak His Word directly to your heart.

When His supremacy fills our insight, the problem of believing shrinks rapidly. “Though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25). He is bigger than our problem. We begin to pray the promise, not the predicament. The Promiser becomes larger rather than problem.

Release the band of doubt by spending time seeking His Face. “We know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2). Ask Him to begin that process today.

Photo by Sam Beasley on Unsplash