“Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”
~ Henry David Thoreau
“I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”
Assuming Thoreau and Bono are both correct, the next logical question is, what are we after when we travel a-stream, rod in hand?
Author John Eldredge recounts the time he was fly fishing when the words “you won’t find him here” suddenly flooded his thoughts. John discovered through fishing he was “after” his father. The man taught him to fish, but was often physically absent from John’s youth due to his job.
Some may be “after” the beauty of nature, captured by camera or painted on canvas. Solitude, or an escape from the pressures of life draws others.
In younger years when high fish counts are the prize, some are “after” a sense of accomplishment. Underlying that desire however is a deeper, more elemental need of affirmation. The desire to know we have competence and value.
There are those who are “after” healing. Nature has long been a balm for the broken and battered. Seekers with physical, emotional, relational or spiritual wounds run to the created world to find re-creation.
What about adventure? Certainly adventures are the fodder of fly shop banter, and shared adventure becomes the glue of friendships. The stories are told and retold (with editorial license concerning numbers and sizes of the fish).
What if what we are really after – at our core – is connection?
What if the tangible that we desire is a shadow of the intangible that we desperately need?
What if the physical beauty of the natural world that draws us to creation is actually a symptom of our need for the supernatural? That creation is desirable because it exhibits fingerprints of the creator?
Psalm 8:3-4 – “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”
Job 12:7-10 – “But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.”
Psalm 145:5 – “On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.”
Romans 1:19 – “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”
“All the wild world is beautiful, and it matters but little where we go, to highlands or lowlands, woods or plains, on the sea or land or down among the crystals of waves or high in a balloon in the sky; through all the climates, hot or cold, storms and calms, everywhere and always we are in God’s eternal beauty and love. So universally true is this, the spot where we chance to be always seems the best.” – John Muir
Sometimes upon return from field or stream, I have a quiet discontent. I once thought this was due to my “success” being less than I had hoped for – fewer fish or less game. But upon deeper inspection I now believe it is due to misplaced desire, expecting the nurture from nature, which doesn’t fully satisfy. Because nature is not the connection I need, but rather the conduit through which the connection is made.
What lies beneath is the need for connection to the eternal.