learning to fish

Finding God is Like Learning to Fish

I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me.

Proverbs [8:17]

When I was twelve, I lived in a very rural part of central Massachusetts. Our home was surrounded by farms and streams. A very pastoral setting. I was also of the age where I could roam without parental supervision. And with my brother, we roamed the streams and countryside. Discovering remote places and quiet settings where few would walk.

Over time, my brother and I started thinking about fishing. So with our money from cashing in bottles and doing odd jobs, we got fishing licenses, rods, reels, and all the stuff needed to fish. Our first attempts were weak and produced very little results.

But we loved roaming around and would spend hours discussing how to get better. We talked to the locals to find the right bait and whenever we saw someone fishing, I would ask lots of questions.

And we got better with most trips producing results. We discovered that the further away from roads you got, the more productive the fishing holes. We learned to let our line drift into the quiet shady pools, where the water didn’t run fast. We discovered that in front of dams, whether man-made or by beavers, were great places as well. We looked for places just next to the current and had good hiding places for the trout. Over the three years we lived there we learned a lot and diligently scoured the countryside to find fish.

As time wore on, in my twenties, when I lived in the rural parts of Maine. I fished on my days off with my friend Steve. We would go to the remote parts of Maine looking for streams that were just right; off the beaten path, wide enough for fish to live and had shade covered pools.

They were wonderful places to sit and feel gentle breezes on our faces. Quiet solitude where we fished and discussed the intricacies of the fishing holes we visited. Sometimes, it would take a couple of miles of walking to find just the right place. But the journey itself was as enjoyable as the fishing.

As life got busier, with a family and growing career responsibilities I put my fishing poles away.

This past summer, when I hiked a large part of the Appalachian Trail, I rediscovered my love for finding fishing places. When Connie and I would walk by a stream, I would search to see if there was a good fishing spot. Invariably each day we would find one. Not that we carried fishing equipment, but just to look and see if we spot some trout. And we did a lot.

As we hiked, we would say, that’s a good spot, and look to see if we could spot a trout facing upstream, and stationary. Its camouflaged body staying very still, with its back fin waving back and forth just enough to keep the fish from going backward with the current.

What I had learned decades ago was still present and not forgotten. Recently, Connie and I got our licenses and fishing gear, and are heading out to find those streams similar to the ones of my youth.

During my studies to get my Doctorate degree, I discovered two types of Theologians. There were those who studied God and Theology. And those who were trying to discover God. Now you might ask isn’t that the same thing? Well, actually it is very different. Studying God is an academic pursuit and while it is a critical activity, it isn’t the same as trying to find God. Most of these students would go on to be teachers. Finding God is more pastoral and the study of where you will find God. Learning this, hopefully, helps others in the future. Many of these students went on to ministry.

I love today’s verse because it is the essence of finding God. It has two simple statements that show us what is required to find God. Let’s reread the verse; I love those who love me, And those who diligently seek me will find me. The first requirement is to love God. To be desirous of finding God and learning about God. The second is to diligently look for God.

My experience is that most people love God, pew research states that ninety percent of people believe in God, and two-thirds want a relationship with God. The second part is the hardest, that of being diligent.

This isn’t about where God is, but more about our attitude in how we search for God. In other words, God is in different places for different people. And more likely God is found in a very intimate and personal place that is different for each person.

This is somewhat like fishing. I always liked Brook Trout or Brookies. Others like bass, ocean fishing, or large lakes. It is more about being diligent in discovering God, like fishing. You have to be willing to go to places that are hard to get to. Not because God is playing hard to get, but is found in places in which we have to put in the effort.

Doing this makes the effort far more personal and intimate. God wants to be found, but God wants to be found in a memorable way.

Like my early fishing life, trial and error produce results. And so it is with our search for God. The journey to God is almost as important as finding God.

For myself in my life; I have found God in a hotel parking lot, through my grandmother, and on a quiet bench under a streetlight. Each time I vividly remember each step I took and the events. Not that this means I am better than others in finding God. But like fishing, I passionately and diligently journeyed towards God, with a lot of mistakes along the way.

And you don’t have to study Theology to find God, you simply have to love God and diligently look for God. There is no prescribed time frame and no roadmap. Each person’s journey is very different and very personal.

This is not something to overthink, rather it’s being passionate in our journey. You will discover God by observing and searching, not on a map.

God wants to be found in a memorable way.

Listen to the Full Podcast – Finding God is Like Learning to Fish


Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman