On a solo Sierra trip, to a rarely fished section of Rock Creek well away from most fisherfolk, I spotted a likely hole through the brush that rimmed the wild trout section. I slipped between the willow branches and wild roses, drowned the night crawler a bit without a bite, and carefully backed out, trying not to snag my 9 ft. split bamboo fly rod, or the line, in a vicious branch or rose thorn.
But the rod tip struck a branch, the rod flexed and line went all over, taking a good ten minutes to unsnag the mess. Muttering under my breath in frustration, I blamed my dad. Honest. It was his fault, even though he’s been gone 35 years. He taught me how to catch trout on Sierra streams, and gave me an 8.5 ft fly rod when I was just 13. I used that for 18 years until emphysema robbed Dad’s ability to fish the high country, and I took over his split bamboo rod. I’ve used it twice as long as the shorter rod, but muscle memory built in those critical first years. So, too frequently, my mind subconsciously calculates backing out on the basis of the shorter rod. The result? A snag. A snag I blame on Dad. OK, facetiously, but I do.
How does this impact growing in Jesus? Think of the variety of habits we build, many by chance and repeated until they become second nature. Dad never thought of me taking over his longer fly rod, and never dreamed I would imprint my way out of brushy trout streams on the basis of the shorter one. A lot of our habits start similarly, and can trip us up more than tangling a line in branches.
Habits of taking the easy way, rather than the right one. Habits of skimming the Bible, rather than studying it. Habits of allowing temptation to linger too closely, rather than fleeing.
I encourage you, as you repeat patterns of behavior, think prayerfully and carefully about the habits they can grow into. Dad’s gift was good, and appreciated. And I love using his rod now. Yet the cost of tangles cannot begin to match the damage of some other habits. Habits that directly impact our intimacy with God. So, look at bit to the logical extension of those repeated acts. And avoid some spiritual tangles.
But, those fly rod snags do bring a benefit. On just about every one I think of Dad, and shoot a quick prayer to my heavenly father for the earthly one he gave me, who taught me so much about fishing. And being a man. A good man.
Kick Starting the Application
Do some habits trouble you, habits that began as innocent or fairly harmless acts? How can you untangle your spiritual snag? Are you in the early stages of building some spiritual habits? Do they look promising or problematic? What action can you take to build good habits and avoid or end some bad ones?