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>Mercy and the God of All Fishes

June 3, 2011

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Last night I stayed up too late reading about ADHD. It was about midnight when I finally put down my book, turned off the last light, and headed upstairs.

As I opened our bedroom door, I heard Mercy’s feet hit the floor across the hall. She slides off the bed and comes down with both feet at the same time, hard. It is a sound I know well, a thud my mommy ears hear even from sleep.

*****

Mercy is a gifted sleeper. This is Mercy’s Recipe for Falling Asleep:

  1. Lay down.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Open your eyes while keeping your eyes shut and stare at the darkness inside your eyelids.
  4. Do this for 2 minutes.
  5. Your eyes will get so tired from seeing in the dark that you will not be able to open them.
  6. You will sleep all night and not wake up until it is in the sevens.

This recipe is so good –Mercy sleeps so soundly –that she sleep walks. Two or three times a month her brain toes the line between unconsciousness and arousal and sends her body on some urgent mission about two hours after she falls asleep.

So last night as I was going to bed, I recognized Mercy’s distinctive thump in the night.  It was my call to usher the wanderer back to bed lest she tuck herself in to the linen closet or a kitchen cupboard.

*****

I stood in her doorway, eyes open, staring into the darkness inside her room.

“Mom?” Mercy asked, her voice coming from the floor next to her bed.

“Oh, honey. Did you fall out of bed?” I asked, moving into the dark.

“No,” she said, her voice as clear as daytime. I could see her now, sitting on the floor, groping vaguely in the dark. “I’m  looking for my fish.”

Purple Fish, I thought. I must have put Purple Fish in the wrong place when we made up her bed.

“Purple Fish is in bed, honey,” I assured her. “Hop back in bed and I will help you find him.”

“Not Purple Fish,” Mercy said. “The fish on my line. I cannot find the fish on my line.”

Adjusted to the dark now, my eyes saw she was not groping at the floor. Hand over hand over hand over hand, Mercy was hauling invisible fish line into her lap. “I cannot find the fish on my line,” she repeated.

I choked back laughter.”Sweetie,” I said taking her hands.”Let’s lay the fish line down. You cannot find the fish because it is too dark for fishing. I will help you find the fish in the morning.”

“Okay, Mom,” she said as she climbed back into bed. “Thanks.”

*****

Inside, I was laughing so hard at Mercy sleep-fishing that the endorphins erased the idea of sleep. So I laid awake reviewing the day, thanking God for blessings like the effects of caffeine on Hope and K.’s taking the girls fishing during Joy’s nap, giving me two quiet hours to write.

It clicked. Although they came home reporting catching 12 little blue gills, Mercy had complained that she had caught none of them. Well, I thought, at least now she will perseverate on catching no fish today, instead of how she lost her hook, bobber and some line to a snag on Tuesday.

Her dream was her personal take on Sisyphus, condemned  to perpetually push the boulder uphill. Mercy was trapped at Lake Jane with an endless line of filament in her hands, hauling, hauling, hauling with no fish in sight.

*****

Tonight before bed, Mercy and I will read the story in John 21 about how Jesus revealed himself with net-bursting fullness to his disciples after they spent the whole night fishing and didn’t catch a single fish.

It is amazing, isn’t it? When we exhaust our best efforts and find ourselves empty-handed, God is all-sufficient.

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