I was good. I mean, fish feared me. They would tell their buddies about me at the local fish bars and nightclubs. “Watch out for the pale white guy in the flannel!” they would say, in between sips of mayflies and midges. “He’s a killer.”
God, my wife, and fishing, that was what life was about (she would argue that I may have mixed up that order from time to time). I loved everything about fishing–early mornings, cold water flowing from high mountains, solitude, or the company of a good buddy, noises that God Himself designed streaming in from all directions, and that was before I even caught anything. Fishing provided me with a singular focus. All other noise of life was drowned out as I watched my little fly gingerly land on water and waited for the subtle or violent rise of a rainbow, brown, or brook trout mistaking it for a meal.
I began to wonder if my problems in life were rooted not merely in lack of self-control, discipline, or personal will power, but were rooted in misplaced delight.
Then came our first girl. Grace. I remember the fishermen that were a bit older than I warning me, “Zach, you’re not going to be able to fish as much. Get ready for it,” I remember being grieved at that thought. I didn’t have a category for slowing down and I figured there would be room for all my loves in my world, we would all just have to squeeze in a bit. Subtly at first, I can remember fishing trips being less satisfying, not being sure whether I actually had the blessing of my wife to go or if she was just practicing being supportive. I can remember wondering whether Grace and later Amy, would notice if I was gone or if they would do anything funny or sweet that I would miss. The singular focus and rest that I once had in those moments of quiet and clarity, were no longer singular and focused. I kept thinking about my family and what I was missing.
I found myself overall less satisfied with the whole endeavor. When guys told me there would be less fishing in my future, they neglected to mention why. I thought that it would be because of guilt and shame, and while there were moments of that for sure, ultimately the nail in the coffin was because I wanted to be with my family. My kids and wife were too much fun. They were the better story. God had given me a tangible example of grace! He let me experience it in this small and silly way. Pleasure overpowered pleasure. Delight overpowered delight. One love overpowered another. I began to wonder if my problems in life were rooted not merely in lack of self-control, discipline, or personal will power, but were rooted in misplaced delight. I asked myself what would happen if God and His holiness became too wonderful to not enjoy (Psalm 16:11).
God is lovely you know. Yea, I know you say you know, just like I say I know, but do we know it like we know our favorite football team, your kids, your job and career, and whatever else we spend our energy, time, and money on? Do you experience it? But here is the thing that is incredibly amazing and incredibly frustrating about delight: You can’t will yourself to it. I can’t conjure up a real feeling. When I am satisfied in something, I’m not thinking about myself and what I am doing, but rather, I am fixated on that thing I love. I am lost in it. That object is beautiful to me and so I feel affection toward it. I taste it and know it is good and long for it again. Isn’t that a truer picture of selflessness, humility, and love? A person who is so lost in what they love that they forget themselves (John 3:30).
When I am satisfied in something, I’m not thinking about myself and what I am doing, but rather, I am fixated on that thing I love. I am lost in it.
God’s goodness itself becomes the driver of my love for Him, my passion to serve Him, my willingness to sacrifice for Him and all those other pursuits that I always hated myself not being able to do. Friends this is not a new concept. Guys like Edwards, Calvin, Augustine and modern guys like Piper, Keller, Tripp and Chandler have been preaching this for years, but do we see it in our own lives? Do we long for and look for these experiences of grace each day? Do you ask yourself and others about their delight in God (Psalm 37:4)?
So let’s go back to the original statement: God is lovely. If the things we love satisfy our soul the way they do, imagine how awesome the person is that designed pleasure itself. “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man that takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8)He is satisfying (Isaiah 58:11). He is fun. He is so satisfying, beautiful, and fun that folks are willing to sacrifice everything to have him. He is kind, patient, and compassionate (Ephesians 2:7). He is holy and perfect (Psalm 18:30) . Goodness gracious, if joy were a person, he would be joy’s joy! (Psalm 84:1-2) Stop striving, be quiet, and look at Him (Psalm 46:10). Let that sink in. Stop trying to work your way to Him and just find space to marvel at what you already have, and who He already is.
If you are struggling with seeing the goodness of God or that He loves you, go to the gospel, rest in the fact that He loves you in the midst of that struggle and look to His Son crucified on the cross. Jesus saw obeying the will of the Father and ransoming us as His delight, thus, empowering Him to persevere through the agony of the crucifixion. Marinate in Hebrews 12:2 “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” God delights to love you and if you need proof of His love think of the depth of how far He had to reach to grab you in the terror of the cross.
Repent of your sin in not realizing His beauty and let it lead you to the cross, where even our inability to find joy in Him becomes a reason for joy in Him.
Fly fishing has taken a back seat in my life because another love became louder. Think about your own lives when a passion changed and see if it has followed the same model. Ask yourself what love became louder. We have so much in Him already. Repent of your sin in not realizing His beauty and let it lead you to the cross, where even our inability to find joy in Him becomes a reason for joy in Him.
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Image Credit: Public Herald, Creative Commons