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Stories from the journey of fatherhood & brotherhood

Deep Places

brotherhood experiences fishing wonder Jan 10, 2021
There was no shoulder nor any car in sight for miles as we stood in the middle of the road on one of the most desolate stretches of two lane highway in southwest Colorado.  We stared in amazement.

"Oh $%!&!"
I exclaimed. "This is real bad but it could have been WAY worse."
 
The man on the other side of the trailer tongue, which was only hanging onto our half-ton pickup by the safety chains, was my best friend, a man who has known and held my story for years and who, by his kindness and intentionality, has brought tremendous healing to some of the deepest hurts my heart has ever known.
 
Our towering load of 5 massive canoes on a rickety old, home-built trailer had been loaded poorly with too much weight in the rear. Not enough tongue weight - an easy mistake that I should have noticed before we left the take-out point on the river 45 miles back. I shook my head in shame, knowing that I knew better. 
 
This could have ended in a hundred other ways, most too horrific to describe, the least of which would have been a destroyed trailer with tens of thousands of dollars of canoes bucking and galloping across the sage brush until it ended in an explosive, cart-wheeling show much the same as most of Wile E. Coyote's stunts did. But, it didn't. There was no on-coming family in a minivan, no truck and trailer rolling over in the ditch at 65 miles per hour, no catastrophe. Just the quiet, peaceful, high desert looking on with us at a trailer that miraculously only had a spare tire with a ground-down flat spot on the bottom. 
 
We stood in complete amazement, the shock of knowing we just skirted tragedy, wondering how in the world we would get the fully loaded trailer off the pavement and back on to the ball. We searched the truck for a jack to help lift the tongue; of course it had been used and not replaced. In a moment of sheer luck and probably stupidity, I tried to lift the entire trailer by hand. To our increased astonishment, it lifted relatively easily. We both grabbed hold and simply walked the massive load up and dropped it back on the hitch.
 
Then, we set to work moving all the cargo in the canoes to better balance out of the load and give the tongue some more weight. In less than 30 minutes we were climbing back into the truck, still no car had passed. I can't remember what my first words were in the cab, but something along the lines of, "What a mess!"
 
Twenty four hours earlier the two of us had been waist deep in one of the most gorgeous rivers in Northeast Utah, fly fishing for brown trout. I was down stream when he hooked into something seriously weighty. We have a small tradition of going crazy when the other guy's fly line goes taught, which flies in the face of all other fly fishing etiquette.

I dashed up river, hollering and cheering, to help him land it. It was a monster brown, the kind the river is known for. Beautiful, strong, and healthy. As soon as we had time to name God's goodness and release the fish, he said, "Ok, now you jump into this hole and get one." Again, an event that is typically unknown to fly fishermen.
 
I waded out into the deep, slow current casting across the river into a deep pool against sheer rock cliffs that rose up 100 feet above us. The canyon we stood in is one of the most beautiful places I have even been, one of the crowning jewels of the West. Within two casts my line was in the biggest rat's-nest knot I had been able to pull off in years. My heart dropped as I sat trying hopelessly to untangle yards of leader and knotted tippet, ashamed that I was wasting the gift of river he had handed to me.
 
Without pause he came up and gently took my rod out of my  hands, handed me his and said, "Don't worry about this mess. Go Fish!" I was instantly 5 years old, looking up into the eyes of my father. I tried sheepishly to argue, but his beaming smile and insistence spoke to my deep longing to be a son who is deeply loved and rejoiced over. Three or four casts with his rod and I also hooked into a giant, a bit smaller than his, but still easily one of the largest trout I have ever connected with. He went nuts, his yells filled the canyon, disturbed the eagles overhead, reverberated off the stone walls, and made the pretentious guides in their float boats scoff at the ridiculousness of pure joy and elation.
 
When I take the time to admit my great need and inadequacy, to honestly engage that eager, longing 5 year old in myself, I am always surprised to find Jesus standing there, taking the mess out of my hands and cheering me to go fish as he beams with joy over his son. 
 
Will you seek out a quiet spot this week and hand over the mess you're holding on to, and its shame, and allow Him to bless and love that young, bright-eyed part of you that is desperate for the love of the Father? 


Justin Koehn
Restoration Project Advocate 
Olympia, Washington

 

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