Monday, January 19, 2009
At Your Expense
Not long ago we were on a short family vacation to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Because I have been going there since 1965, it holds tons of great memories for me and is my favorite place in the world. I love the mountains and virtually everything one can do in them, like ride horses, hike, camp, canoe, and, with thanks to my father, fly fish. It was his happiest hobby, and it’s mine too.
God often speaks profoundly to me when I’m fishing. (Which is not to say that whatever He speaks to me at other times is not all that deep!) If you were to ask my wife, Sarah, about it, she would say, “Ohhhhhh, yes! God talks to Ralph and does amazing things when he goes fishing. It sounds like an excuse to get out of the house, doesn’t it? But it isn’t…”
While what He speaks to me is always wonderfully meaningful and eternally relevant, it has also meant fantastic fishing. You can imagine how open and excited I am to go. “Well, honey, I need to spend some focused time with God – think I’d better go fishing.”
Geared up and ready to go, I was standing on the banks of the Buffalo River when I said, “Jesus, I again ask for you to give Brent (my twin brother) the best fishing day ever. That it would be completely fantastic and beyond his expectations, and that he would be utterly delighted with you.” And this is what I heard:
“What if it is at your expense?”
I didn’t move. Buying some time and hoping I might hear something else, something more exciting, I said (profoundly), “What?” And I heard the same question. “What if it is at your expense?” Pausing to think clearly, I said aloud, “Well, Lord, that would be okay with me…that would be fine …yes, Lord…alright then…his best day.”
I took a deep breath and waded into the stream, my stream, my river, my memory-packed, whopper-filled, river of joy…and proceeded to catch maybe five trout where I would have caught five times that. As a matter of fact, that’s about what Brent caught. Maybe a few more. As we walked the many miles of the river together, all day long my pools were vacant, his were full, my fish were smart, his were stupid, my fish were average, his were outstanding, my attitude ebbed and flowed from content to frustrated, and his hit 10 on the happy scale and never moved.
There was even a time when, because I was walking on the opposite side of the river, I couldn’t fish what should have been my pool. Instead, I sat high up on a bluff overlooking the stretch (of my pool) and, spotting several large and stupid trout, directed him where to cast. “Oh, yeah!” he shouted. “Got him! Ooooooh, it’s a big one!”
For eight hours I was supremely aware of God’s work and pleasure in my life and Brent’s. And I’m still thinking about it.
There’s a lot for me to learn about God’s will and purpose and pleasure, and where I fit with Him in that. I had been looking forward to that day on the river with Brent for months, and my picture of God’s blessing for us meant that nothing much was required of me. Walk along, cast a fly, hook and land a whopper, hold it up for admiration and glory, and release it while praising God. Simple. Hallelujah - what a day.
But in my ongoing desire to know God, there are many things He wants to share with me, not just so I will know what life is like, but so I can know Him in the midst of life. He wanted to bless Brent and He wanted to bless me. That meant fish and joy for Brent and that meant knowing God in a new way for me. And I forget that He has made me a lot like Himself, so it’s no wonder He includes me in what He is doing, even at my expense. He has some history with that sort of thing.
One more thing. As darkness fell upon us that day on the river, Brent announced, “You know, this has been the best day of fishing I have ever had.”