Saturday, August 16, 2014

Fly Fishing Discipleship

I had the amazing privilege of fly fishing with my dad in the mountain streams of Wyoming a couple of weeks ago. We walked upstream in chest waders, casting and reeling. At one point, my father ahead of me, I said to myself, "Even if you took a picture, it would never be this vivid. How could you capture varied widths of grass, the scent of pine and sage, fresh oxygen and wildflowers? Who could show the swirls of clear water flecked green and gold or the dark still pools? And Dad. Look. Remember. This moment will never be the same. Study him as he finds footing, casts, plays the line, casts, and plays the line. Don't forget. It's yours--and you can keep it for later if you look at it now."


And as we took turns wading, working pools and rippling currents, I could see similarities between my father's instruction and discipleship. Our first time out, he told me where he was going to cast and why, threw out his line, put the rod in my hand, and, his own over mine, guided the fly downstream. The second day, he sent me ahead, "They'll be there because.... And if that doesn't work, try.... A little to the left. There you go.... Oooh, ooh! That's it! That's what you want."
Then I would watch him move ahead for a turn of his own and heard him in my head, "Slow down... lift, back... a little to the right....."

What encouraged me most were the times his cast didn't land in exactly the right place. Sometimes he caught a tree limb or bush on the bank. Sometimes he switched out bait. Sometimes he didn't catch anything. For him it was sometimes. For me it was most times. But I was both encouraged and awed. He's fly fished for sixty years. Almost weekly. I've been a few times. Sporadically. But the truth is, no matter how long, how much or how passionately he fishes, he still has to work at it. It takes effort, practice, time and multiple attempts to get the desired result.

Life, as a believer in Jesus Christ is like that. Some of us have spent decades walking upstream, seeking, casting, jigging the line. Some of us are relatively new. We're trying to get the feel of uneven rocks under our feet, to catch our balance against strong currents on smooth, slippery stones. We watch those ahead as if they're moving, living, working effortlessly. But as we come alongside one another, reaching out to those ahead or behind us, a wonderful dynamic takes place. The more experienced point out the nature and types of things that really matter. They show us where to look and how to cast. They throw out a line of their own and guide our hands until we get the hang of it.

As we spend time wading upstream, we notice it still requires effort, practice, time and multiple attempts to get it right. No one has perfected life. In fact, to add an unseen element, none of us does it on our own. God is the unseen Provider of health, resources, equipment, knowledge, and opportunity. For those who have trusted Jesus alone for salvation, He enables and guides us. He is the One the older fisher-persons direct younger ones to follow.

We caught fish in the Rockies, slipping them off the hook and back into the stream as we shared life for a couple of days. The fish were fun, but not necessary. How much more, when we see our Savior, will we cast crowns at His feet? The sorrow and journey will be but a part of the gift we lay before our Creator-God, the One who blessed us. What a wonder that He has given us each other as a reflection of His loving care.

What to do? Look ahead, look behind, up and down the river of life, and get busy making (and being) disciples!

Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.  And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. Ephesians 5:1-2

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