Faith, like Fly Fishing, takes Patience, Dedication, and Surrender

by Rev. Bob Reynolds, Executive Presbyter

Bob reynolds rcr robert headshot“With my whole heart I seek you, O God, I treasure your word in my heart.”
Psalm 119:10-11.

This summer, I discovered that the life of faith has similarities to fly fishing! There may be books about this, as there are about golf, though, if not, one should be written. After being oriented briefly to fly fishing and wading into a rushing stream in the Big Sky mountains of Montana, I made my first fledgling attempts at casting, laying a fly on the rapid water’s surface precisely where it would catch the interest of a big rainbow trout. I watched intently for a fish to bite on my tasty morsel as it gently floated downstream. But, after several attempts, I learned that the rainbows, browns, and brooks are crafty creatures. They don’t rush to jump on fake flies with sharp hooks designed to remove them from their habitat. Alas, I learned that fly fishing takes patience.

Bob Reynolds fly fishing 2014

Fly fishing in Big Sky Montana with a friend

After two afternoons, I caught a total of four trout. However, mine were just 4-5 inch, compared to the coveted 20 inchers which are the true marks of successful trout fishing. I learned another lesson: dedication. Any chance of reeling in trophy trout requires continuous casting, relocating, changing flies, slip-sliding through rocky rapids, testing shadowy pools, keeping an eye out for bears, and persistently pursuing the treasured, though elusive, prize. Later, after casting flies for hours without tangible rewards, I was tempted to cast blame on many of these fly fishing challenges! But, as it turns out, it can be invigorating with the right mindset. When one gets into a fly fishing mental zone, time seems to fly as well as the bait. With every new cast there is concentration on the targeted drop of the fly, renewed anticipation, and hope for the perfect catch, all of which make for a thrilling enterprise. It takes dedication.

These acquired characteristics are well-known to experienced anglers. A self-proclaimed amateur fly fisherman, Carl Bedeman, wrote this in the magazine “Outside Bozeman” (Summer 2014): ” . . . we give up our privileged skybox on nature’s sideline. In this element there is no failsafe or guarantee. We surrender the comforts of home; we surrender our pride; we surrender the fish back to the river. Most of all, we surrender our souls to the experience. Fishing requires nothing less than that. . . ” (pp. 50-51)

So it is with a life of faith where strong hope leads to uncertain journeys without guarantees. Each creative liturgy initiative or response to God’s reconciling call brings the risk of false starts or modest results. We surrender the known comforts of home in order to involve ourselves in the faith community and to walk with humility alongside neighbors in need. But, by “surrendering our souls,” as in seeking God with our whole hearts, we enter a spiritual zone that is life giving.

Every successful fly fisherman develops capacities for patience, dedication, and surrender. That’s descriptive as well for those on the journey of faith who seek with their whole hearts the treasure of God’s word. Thanks be to God for those who connect with the Presbytery of Chicago as part of their faith journey.

This article was originally published on page 2 of the September 2014 Our Common Ministry. Download the complete issue.

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