Slow Medicine

brotherhood curiosity fishing

This question has always bothered me to some degree. I usually have no idea what the answer is, so that doesn’t help either. “What do you think God has for you in this?”

The next question came only a breath later, and it wasn’t any easier. In fact, it hit home in an odd mix of grace, glory, and gall. “What is the gift you are receiving by NOT catching any fish?” 

It was my birthday. It was one of my closest friends. He knows me. He knows I like to fish. He asks questions. He’s damn good at it too. And he cares about me. So he was curious. 

I was barely ready for those questions. In fact, I’m pretty sure my initial response was slanting sharply toward cynical. “I’m not sure,” was what came out. Other words stayed in my head. 

Nonetheless, I began to wonder. The slow medicine of curiosity started to sink in, and the bitter angst of disappointment started to give way. Then my thoughts and arguments fought back unrelentingly, beating down the budding tenderness... “I want to catch a fish! I like fishing! I like it when things work out… and it’s my birthday!” 

Will you allow me to digress? I like the lemon pound cake at Starbucks. I like watching the stars course the night sky. I like great movies and especially the fact that the theaters are opening up in a few days. I like watching my dog get excited when I walk through the door. I like getting together with close brothers every Tuesday morning. I like Mountain Dew with a steak burrito from Qdoba (better queso… don’t get me started, Chipotle fans). I like traveling for work to DC where I can ride the mall for an hour on a rented bike after dark. I like air conditioning on a hot summer day. I like a good scotch like Tamdhu. I like watching a painted sky at sunset or sunrise. 

I like many things. And the things above are generally predictable. Which is why I go back to them again and again. To some degree, I have them figured out. I can rely on them. They work. 

But getting back to my birthday and the questions. What “gift” could there possibly be in NOT getting what I want? I like things that work, and I naturally avoid things that are hard and don’t work. Things that DON’T work consistently DON’T make my list. 

So, there I stood with an unsatisfied fly rod in my hand. A friend’s question hanging in the air. I held my tongue, noticed the chip on my shoulder, and let the cracks of wonder seep into my disappointment. “Okay, what’s going on… is there really a gift here?” The slow medicine of curiosity takes hold again. Without my onslaught of excuses pushing back against it, I begin to see that it provides grace for my soul when my beloved routine gets busted.

More questions emerge. “What could be happening? What did that do in me? Where did I just go? What moved in me just now?” And finally… “What is the GIFT of not getting what I want?”

Now, I’m not great at answering those questions. In fact, I usually avoid them unless pressed. And I’m not able to answer that FISH question yet anyway, so don’t look for a tidy bow to THAT story in the closing paragraph. 

But there is something very strong, and very beautiful, in the simple act of curiosity. Jesus asked questions. And He did so in a way that never felt overpowering, at least to people He was pursuing who drew the short straw… those whose life didn’t work. But for those with all the answers and a chip on their shoulder, well… the questions landed differently. 

As brothers, we can do this for each other. Instead of critiquing, we invite. Instead of demanding, we disarm. Instead of harming, we heal. And I’m not the only one living on the crumbling corner of 2020 who could use some invitation, disarmament and healing. 

So then, can we walk together on the kinder side with curiosity? When things crumble, in big or small ways, let us ask honest questions with humble hearts. And maybe the rising temperature of failed expectations will be broken by that slow medicine of curiosity, bringing us back to a better version of what God has for each of us. 


Bart Lillie
Restoration Project Chief Catalyst

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