Monday, October 18, 2010

God and Fly Fishing

I’m not a very churchy guy.

I’ll attend services a couple times a month with my family, but, generally speaking, the services are secondary—I get more out of those days by catching up with friends and being a part of a little community of folks, who, for the most part, don’t push God on anyone, but rather make Him available should we want a more direct channel to the Almighty.

Sounds corny, I know. But it is what it is.

So, I was a bit taken aback recently when a few folks at church asked me to help oversee the parish’s Christian education programs. My first inward reaction was, “You want the guy who thinks the vast majority of the Old Testament is poorly crafted fiction written by overly pious white guys with deeply seeded ‘issues’ to be your Christian education director?”

But after a bit of reflection, I agreed to do the job, largely because I think there a lot of people like me out there who don’t necessarily buy into the Biblical aspect of religion, but who value the overarching message of the faith that asks for good deeds, a life well-lived and a charitable heart.

And we get a sip of wine on Sunday mornings to take the edge off.

Part of this “appointment” by the church vestry (it’s like a board of directors) included a little sit-down with our parish priest. It marked the first time I had a candid conversation with a member of the clergy since I was confirmed as an Episcopalian some 18 years ago.

The conversation was pleasant—truth be told, I really like our rector. Even though she’s the priest, I never feel as though she’s pressuring any of us to really hone in on the source of our spirituality. Like most Episcopalians, she’s accepting, she’s patient and she understands that not everybody who fills the pews on Sunday morning has a really firm grasp of what God’s all about.

This conversation easily represented the most detailed outward examination of my faith. Ever. And, I have a feeling, for the priest, it was a pretty casual talk designed largely to get to know each other a little better. It included questions like, “Where are you on your spiritual journey?” and “What led you to where you are now in your faith?”

Spiritual journey? Faith?

I know. You’re asking, “What the Hell, dude? This is supposed to be about fly fishing.”

I’m getting there. Promise.

I’m not sure how much credence my priest put in my carefully crafted answers about how my faith and my fly fishing are often one in the same. I think it’s kitschy and probably a bit disingenuous to say that I’m closest to God when I’m fishing, but it’s not far from the truth, either. A lot of anglers—especially backcountry anglers who loathe the idea of fishing along the road when other options are available, or who don’t care for the idea of elbow-to-elbow fishing along some crowded stretch of river—know exactly what I mean.

We seek out “God’s country” pretty regularly—going where we’re just as likely to run into a bear or a moose as we are to another angler is about as close to Heaven as our earthly feet can take us.

So, yeah, it might be a little predictable to answer that my spiritual well-being depends on my ability to wander away from the road and cast to fish that can’t remember the last time they saw a fly, but it’s the truth.

Going to church? Sitting in the pews, thumbing through the Book of Common Prayer and singing along to the hymns? Maybe that’s just my way of paying God back for the chance to see the best of His “creation” on my terms.

That may not be the answer my priest is looking for, but it’s a truthful answer. Between me and God, that’s all that counts.


  1. You and my husband agree, he is closest when he is backpacking off the beaten path and alone

  2. Excellent post - it's got me thinking...

  3. Thanks Josh... much appreciated. Don't think too hard, though... it's just fishin' ;)

  4. I hope you shared this with your rector. If she is really smart she will read next Sunday to the congregation and receive a rousing chorus of Amens.

  5. In Texas, like most places, talking about politics or religion can start quite a ruckus. Of course down here we add to that Cowboys football and barbecue. But since you opened the ball...

    I would encourage you to read through the Old Testament again, but this time look at it in macro, not micro focus. Consider the overarching theme of the Bible is an account God's redemptive act toward man; the Old Testament foretells, the New Testament fulfills. Heck there are even accounts of fishermen tossed in there for fun. Pick a translation that is readable (I like the NIV)and give it a shot. You won't understand it all - at least I don't. And yeah, there are people with issues. Just like the rest of us. But it's good stuff.

  6. Thanks for the note, Mark... I'll give it a whirl, but I have to warn you, I'm a late bloomer when it comes to religion. As a kid, I found the scriptures to be tedious and downright boring (unless they described battles or something particularly gorey). The idea that they might not be entirely accurate never really crossed my mind. Today, as I read them with a critical eye focused on interpretation after many, many years away, I'm even more confused and less likely to believe. I think what it boils down to, as it is with just about anything we're uncertain about, is faith. You either have it, or you don't, right?

  7. I know exactly what you mean. God's country. And I feel nearer to him waist deep in a river than I ever have in a pew. Thank you, for this post. I needed to read it. I too, have "deep seated issues" I guess. ;)