My fishing line was hopelessly tangled.
We headed out early this morning, in the crisp air and under a socked-in grey sky, to wade fish the nearby Robinson River. We tried one spot with no success, then headed to a second spot downstream. No sooner did the hook hit the water, a huge and beautiful rainbow trout grabbed it and fought the good fight! But we weren’t ready for it! We scrambled to get the net, our mouths watering with the promise of a fresh trout dinner. The fish read our minds and lurched one last time… flipping off the hook! Bummer, Dude! He swam away slowly, as if to say he wasn’t all that impressed (or bothered) by our fishing skills. Is it any wonder? 🙂
Knowing we had “spooked” the fish in that hole, we decided to head farther downstream to another deep pool. On my second cast there, my line got hopelessly tangled. It was a mess. I worked at it hastily and half-heartedly… and realized how quickly I could move from finding my frustration to losing my temper. After all, we had gone fishing… and I know that there’s a zero percent chance of catching a fish without a hook in the water. By the look of things, I would have no hook in the water for quite some time… unless I cut the line and started over.
That’s when You did that thing I love, Lord — when You gently hold a “mirror” up to my face so I can look into it and see my soul.
I was so aware of Your Presence, Your nearness, I thought maybe even the fish would glance our way. As I looked down at that hopelessly tangled line, I saw my own life. And In that moment, I no longer saw my hands holding that tangled line… I saw Yours.
Suddenly, everything changed. I was standing in the river, literally, with babbling water flowing all around me. Yet I was also standing in a different River. I became acutely aware of Your Living Water… flowing, cleansing, calming, renewing. And I was filled with intense gratitude that You never gave up on me. My life was once a tangled mess. You could have so easily cut me off, discarded me, started over. But You didn’t then… and You do not, even now.
You taught me a lot today about one particular fruit of Your Holy Spirit, one I had been quickly losing just moments before:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience…” (Galatians 5:22)
I was no longer in a hurry. I was no longer flustered. I was even aware of how my grip — my touch — was softening against the fishing line, as I took great care to loosen the tangles. To try to make sense of how the knots had formed and how to free them up. I was keenly aware of how You have so graciously done this with me, Lord… and how You will continue to do this for the rest of my life here on Earth, until I finally see You face-to-Face.
“I always pray with joy… being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
For more than an hour, I worshipped You in that river today… persevering in that simple quest to return that tangled mess to order, so it could be useful. Some might expect this story to be punctuated by that old saying, “All’s well that ends well.” But today, it didn’t “end well.” Or did it?
In the end, I could not untangle the line… just like I couldn’t untangle my life. Not in my own strength. Not back “then” (before You). Not even now. Sometimes, I still get too easily entangled in things that hinder me from loving You and serving You in the ways I truly desire. Sometimes, I have to willfully cut those “lines” myself. Sometimes, You have to… because my spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak.
“… let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:1b-2a)
But Your lesson today when You held up the “mirror” to me was not about my failures. It was all about Your Unfailing Love and Your Unquenchable Grace! I am so grateful to be in Your grip, Lord. I feel the gentleness of Your Touch… even when You need to cut away that which hinders me and “start fresh.” Not just so I can be more useful… but so I can love You back in the way You deserve to be loved. The way I want to love You… with my whole heart.
Untangle as You will, Lord! Cut away as You must! I give You permission!
We might go fishing again tomorrow. But, thankfully, for now — forever — I’m hooked on You.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)