A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. – Proverbs 18:24
I’m penning this post as I return from an out of town fishing trip with family and friends. As we set out on our trip to Norfolk, VA, we left with a dream of bringing in a big haul. As you can see from the above photo of our actual catch, the dream for the moment must remain, as Langston Hughes wrote about in another context, deferred. Although mildly disappointed with our results, my companions and I had still had a terrific time. Some of you might find that last part strange – that we had a great time. This was after all, an out of town trip. Norfolk is an eight hour van ride away from my home in Pittsburgh. I used a vacation day for the trip. Staying with the family of family helped to defray the cost of lodging, but there was still the cost of meals, gas, the fishing charter and time. All of this just to pull in a handful of fish that we wound up keeping. On the basis of economics alone, our excursion was a poor investment.
Anyone who fishes on a regularly basis will tell you that at best fishing is an iffy proposition, with no guarantee of a catch. Scripture recounts one occasion when the Apostle Peter and his companions had been fishing all night and had not caught anything (John 21:3-5). Those of us who fish recreationally know that while the goal is to land the “big one,” and I don’t know a fisherman alive who doesn’t like to brag, there’s more to it than that. There is the serenity that comes from being on or near the water. There is the quietness, devoid of electronic intrusion and sensory overload. There is the challenge of trying to outwit the fish – first to find them and then to entice them to strike what you are offering. Lastly, but perhaps most importantly there is the fellowship of companions. Men are generally not known as the chatty gender but fishing with a good buddy provides a hospitable environment for conversation. It’s almost impossible to put these benefits into some economic model.
Fishing is in some ways a metaphor for our dreams and ambitions in life. In fishing you scout out your location, keep an eye on the weather forecast, make sure your equipment is good shape, pick up your bait (assuming you’re not using lures or flies) and set off with expectations, but with no guarantees, that you will catch anything. In life we dream and about set about committing those dreams to plans. We work our plans, but we have no guarantee our plans will work out. The book of James soberly reminds us, Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:13-15, NIV).
The advertising slogan for New York Life is “the company you keep.” Keeping the right company makes for a good fishing trip and a good life. The right company will allow you to enjoy the trip regardless of the outcome. In order to have the best life, you must have God as your companion. If you commit your life to him, God himself through the person of the Holy Spirit will dwell inside of you. The Holy Spirit will comfort and guide you and lead you into all truth. His companionship is sure. God speaking of himself says several places in scripture, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5, Hebrews 13:5).
While the catch on our fishing trip was meager, that we did come back with plenty of fish. We purchased 50 lbs. of VA spots at the dock. Now on to the fun task of cleaning them. . . .