I'm a reader of novels, and, as a person with a degree in English Literature, should be, don't you think? I realize that some believers never would...but here's the thing: there are times--oh, so many--when I've learned something profound about the Kingdom from novels. And I'm not talking about those overtly Christian novels with a neon gospel flag waving. I appreciate that there are those who are encouraged by such books, whose faith is strengthened by them. My own mother was one of them. However, most of the time, they are not for me.
What I find appealing is novels with voice and depth and revelation that sometimes the author doesn't even know they're making. The novel I've been lately reading has such a revelation. Its author, David James Duncan, is a believer and has written a rather powerful book called People of the Book, which is about the relationship of cultures though-out history to the Bible. However, this novel is, oddly enough, about fishing. I'm not, nor have ever been, interested in fishing. But this doesn't keep me from loving this book. His writing is so compelling, the story so funny and poignant in turn, that I've been drawn in. And, I loved, loved, loved his other book, The Brothers K. I mean loved it as much as I've loved anything written in the last twenty years, and it was about baseball, sort of, but many other things as well, and was a tome.
So, The River Why. I'm barely into it, but Duncan's voice is familiar enough that it's like I'm reading an old friend. And the other day I came to a paragraph that opened up something in me that I just have to share in totality. And yes, it's about fishing:
"Like gamblers, baseball fans and television net works, fishermen are enamored of statistics. The adoration of statistics is a trait so deeply embedded in their nature that even those rarefied anglers the disciples of Jesus couldn't resist backing their yarns with arithmetic: when the resurrected Christ appears on the morning shore of the Sea of Galilee and directs his forlorn and skunked disciples to the famous catch of John 21, we learn that the net contained not a "boatload" of fish, nor "about a hundred and a half, nor "over a gross," but precisely "an hundred and fifty and three." This is, it seems to me, one of the most remarkable statistics ever computed. Consider the circumstances: this is after the Crucifixion and the Resurrection; Jesus is standing on the beach newly risen from the dead, and it is only the third time the disciples have seen him since the nightmare of Calvary. And yet we learn that in the net there were "great fishes" numbering precisely "an hundred and fifty and three." How was this digit discovered? Mustn't it have happened thus? upon hauling the net to shore, the disciples squatted down by that immense, writhing fish pile and started tossing them into a second pile, painstakingly counting, "one, two, three, four, five, six, seven..." all the way up to an hundred and fifty and three, while the newly risen Lord of Creation, the Sustainer of their beings, He who died for them and for Whom they would gladly die, stood waiting, ignored, till the heap of fish was quantified." 14-15
But then Duncan says, on page 16:
"Concerning those disciples huddled over the pile of fish, another possibility occurs to me: perhaps they paid the fish no heed. Perhaps they stood in a circle adoring their Lord while He, the All-Curious Son of His All-Knowing Dad, counted them all Himself."
Happy First day of the week.