image by riverexchange.org
Some locals claim the upper Sacramento River, right under the I-5 bridge in Dunsmuir, may yield the best trout fishing in California. Pines creep right down to the water’s edge of the gorgeous stream, yet leave enough space to cast and still not get hung up. Too often, anyway!
Wild blackberries give ample reason to study the river, and large boulders in the 20-yard width provide holes for the trout. The rumble of nearby freight trains adds a sense of timelessness.
I’m not sure about the quality of fishing, but I did come to doubt the fisherman’s rationale, “The worst day fishing beats the best day working.”
I’d caught one and lost another, when I spotted a sure hole for a hungry trout. “Hope springs eternal in the fisherman’s breast.” Carefully working my way 20 feet down a steep slope, a section of dirt broke loose. I lost my balance and took a fall. Hard. Not the slow motion kind, nor the type you just pop up from, but a “happens at the speed of light, see stars, lose your orientation, hurt yourself good” one.
After checking to see that my antique wicker creel was OK, I realized I’d done it this time. My left arm just hung there, motionless. Somehow, the motionlessness concerned me more than the significant pain in my shoulder. I cautiously clambered back up the slope.
I thought I’d broken my arm, but Dr. Saunders at the ER said the shoulder was dislocated, along with two breaks in the socket. Not only was the day of fishing on “the greatest stream in California” ruined, but the injury cut short a 10 day vacation with Sheila after our first full day at Mt. Shasta.
Lying on the examining table in the ER, with pain throbbing from my shoulder and arm, a phrase from 1 Thessalonians 5:18 flashed through my pain-numbed mind, “Give thanks in all circumstances.”
“Father, no. You don’t really mean that!”
His silence didn’t stop the repetition of the phrase in my mind. Realizing he likely meant what he whispered that once, I yielded a grudging “Well, Father, I do thank you for this. I don’t have a clue why this happened. I don’t particularly like this pain, nor ending the trip. But you told me to do this, and I am. But if you want to bring a miraculous healing, that’s OK.”
He didn’t. But I did gain some peace. I grudgingly let go of the long awaited trip to see my ministry mentor, a great friend, and the gorgeous redwoods on the north coast of California. I was OK with it, and expected little else. But to be honest, I still see no benefit from the accident.
I didn’t make an unplanned stop in a gas station on the way back and buy a winning lottery ticket. Nothing great and unexpected occurred that wouldn’t have if we’d continued the trip. I experienced pain, and Sheila and I experienced friction over it. To this day, several years later, I’m not aware of any special blessing we received.
But a deeper principle emerged from the pain. Oh, if I’d seen a benefit I could have dealt with this “more spiritually.” But a shattered shoulder, an aborted trip, and nothing good from it? I expected a better trip. I deserved it. I follow Jesus and his job is to protect me. Right? So why be thankful for all things? Maybe to minimize the frustration of the moment. Maybe to put our focus on God rather than ourselves. Maybe to remind us that bad things happen, with no benefit that we see this side of heaven. But. In all things, including the bad, God is there. He was. He is.
Kick Starting the Application
How about you? Can you identify any recent experiences that still have you hacked off? Do they still gnaw at your mind, and poison a relationship? How did your expectations of the caliber of life impact your response? Try thanking God for them. Don’t focus on how God may “use it for good.” Instead, focus on his presence. You may reel in an unexpected catch of serenity.