OK, before I start, I just gotta say, the title of this blog would be a very cool name for a Christian band. Just sayin’….
So, seriously, I did go flyfishing with Jesus the other day. I haven’t been fishing nearly enough this year. The few short day-trips I’ve had were a lot of fun and I got to hang out with some very good friends, but until a couple of weeks ago I hadn’t had a good multi-day trip yet this spring. A backpacking trip at the end of May with my cousin Nate and his friend Jack finally broke the drought, and last weekend I ventured eastward to do battle with my beloved Elk River and its wild trout.
The Elk is a special place. It’s not the same as some of the backcountry wilderness streams I’ve been haunting for the past couple of seasons, but in its own way it is as majestic and beautiful as any of those locales. And it’s certainly a river with a personality all its own. For those of you who fish, you know what I mean when I say a river has a personality. It’s hard to describe to non-anglers, but bear with me anyway.
Anyway, driving over toward Slatyfork to fish the upper river, I was really trying to focus on just being in a prayerful state and carrying on a dialogue with God. Sometimes that solo windshield time is very conducive to that kind of mindset. I suppose there are lots of ways you can kill three hours behind a steering wheel by yourself, and I’ve probably tried most of them over the years, but lately I’ve really been trying to be intentional about just being aware of God’s presence and sort of letting it soak in. So as I pulled into the parking lot, I sort of offhandedly just said a little prayer inviting Jesus to go fishing with me that day.
Now, that probably sounds a little arrogant in some ways. I mean, clearly, God is always with us, right? So why invite him when he’s there anyway? And it also struck me that, if anything, maybe he was really inviting me to fish with him. I mean, after all, he’s the one who created the river! What better guide to have on a stream than its inventor!? And it’s not like this was the first time I’ve said that little prayer. Often when I’m fishing by myself I ask God to fish alongside me, and I’ve clearly felt his presence throughout the day.
But this day on the upper Elk was a little bit different. Walking down the tracks toward my favorite starting point, I ran into a fellow from Maryland who didn’t have much experience on the stream and was asking for some basic advice. We walked together for awhile and had a nice chat. Eventually, I decided I didn’t really need to have the water to myself and told him he was welcome to fish with me as we settled into the pocket water above the rail bend hole (you Elk River regulars will know where I mean!). We shared some water together for an hour or so until I broke my rod and hand to walk back out to the car to get a replacement. And on the way out, I was thinking about that whole notion of inviting the Creator of the universe to fish with me, and how I ended up fishing with this guy from the DC suburbs. And it occurred to me that the two were not mutually exclusive.
You see, during our brief time together, I got a chance to share a bit my faith with my fellow angler. I have no idea where he is or was in whatever faith journey he may or may not have been on. And all I really did was take advantage of a couple of points in the conversation where I could just casually sort of declare myself as a Christ follower and a little bit about what Grace is all about. It probably wasn’t more than two minutes of our hour-and-a-half together on the trail and the river.
So the question that comes to me is this: Would I have been able to make those statements so effortlessly and confidently if I hadn’t invited Jesus to fish with me? I’ve long since quit believing in coincidences where God is concerned. Maybe my new friend somehow needed to hear just what little bit I had to say about Grace that day. Or maybe I just needed the practice saying those things to somebody outside of my own circle of friends. What I do know is, upon reflection, those few moments really defined that whole day for me…in fact, in some ways, they defined the entire weekend.
After I returned to the river from getting my spare flyrod, I never did run into Craig again. His car was gone from the parking lot when I finally came off the river at dark. Jesus and I had a good day on the water. We caught some fish and enjoyed each other’s company. I think I’ll invite him to fish with me again soon.