Keep One Eye on The Fish and One Eye on the Bear
I’m not terribly good at it, but I love to fly-fish. For one, it’s apparently a rule of the sport that such fishing take place in the untouched splendor of creation.
As they say in the real estate business: location, location, location.
I also like the challenge of a thousand different variables coming into play as your eyes focus on a mysterious patch of water holding so much promise. The slack yellow line in your left hand while your right arm tick-tocks in necessary rhythm, stopping on just the right beat as that line snaps to life, rolling out across the glassy bluegreen.
For me, fly-fishing requires much concentration to not end up entangled in a spiderweb of my own making. The goal is always that perfect cast and then the perfect drift or set. I usually end up getting at least one variable wrong… But there are moments when they all converge with some sort of poetic flourish. Add to that the chance of landing a big fish and I’m hooked—no pun intended. (Okay, maybe it was intended.)
As I mentioned, accomplishing that particular task in front of you requires a great deal of focus. In fact, it becomes so easy to focus on the “goal” that you can easily forget everything else happening around you. Especially when you’re catching fish on a gorgeous bend of river in Alaska.
That’s when I noticed the bear…
It’s happened more than once—several times, actually. Alaskan brown bears stick close to the streams and rivers for their nourishment. And what nourishment there is: Just about the time they are trying to fatten up for the winter, the sockeye salmon show up to spawn and then slow down and eventually die. Many at the hand—er, paw—of these mammoth beasts.
Because of the interconnectedness of this ecosystem, the occasional human in those streams is theoretically not on the menu. I’ve been told by expert guides that my job is to stay out of the way and to calmly back out of any water that a bear enters. (It does no good to argue about who got there first)
Even if all this is true and they are mostly interested in the fish, bears do represent a level of danger, and you must acknowledge this or you could be devoured.
No matter how much concentration it takes to fly-fish, no matter how gratifying it is when things go well, you simply cannot forget to look around and respond to potential danger before it becomes real danger. To assume you can only focus on the goal in front of you without ever paying mind to all that’s happening around you is not only foolish but also dangerous.
And that brings us to the topic of culture.
“How we do what we do is as missiological as what we do.” – The Genius of One
There are forces at play that don’t want this Jesus-shaped, God-reflecting way of relating in this world. If the mission of the people of God is as wide reaching and planet-healing as the New Testament seems to declare, then it would only make sense that the enemy of God would try to thwart it at every turn.
Let us never forget that the enemy of God is also our enemy.
Peter speaks of this enemy as prowling around like a wild animal (this time a lion) “looking for someone to devour.”
Looking to devour what?
If we can never be separated from the love of God as partakers of his grace (one of the truly great promises of Scripture), then what is the devil looking to devour? Our hope, our effectiveness in this world, our perseverance, our joy . . . all of this is on the menu.
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8
But never forget that the enemy will attack the very relationships we have with one another.
What he wants to do, seeks to do, and may have already done is pull us apart or (even better) turn us against one another. If we overlook odd and destructive behavior because it’s easier than facing it head-on, trouble will find us. If we ignore bad habits, bad things will begin to happen. Sometimes the really bad things we never thought could happen will happen.
This was the devil’s intent all along. Peter never says fear our enemy. Just pay attention.
Watch what’s happening. Take appropriate action. Resist him. Confront evil. Ask Jesus for wisdom and protection and you’ll get both. But never forget there is one who hates what you’re doing. He’s lurking somewhere at the edge of camp right now, prowling, sniffing, looking for an opening. This is the way of our enemy. We need not fear him. But we’d better notice him, and we’d better be intentional about protecting ourselves—including our culture.
It’s a funny, mysterious word. But healthy culture is a gift and a blessing. It’s worth our efforts because it matters. It’s worth our prayers because God is still at work in us. And it’s worth protection because it’s under attack. Stay focused on the glorious mission in front of you, but stay very aware of what is happening around you.
What we do and how we do what we do—they both matter. This is the way of Jesus.
Remember… Keep one eye on the fish and one eye on the bear.