I learned to fly fish on the same river where Brad Pitt filmed the movie “A River Runs Through It.” Unlike the characters in the film, my skills are far from extraordinary.
Eventually, I discovered the rhythm of a good cast and, as the hours passed, I found I was no longer thinking of fish, bushes or even technique: I was just fishing.
For me, fishing is a quality-time hobby. It’s not something you do alone. When I go, I wade along the river with my dad or brother by my side.
Recently, I’ve been mulling over a connection between fishing and friendship. As I replay my river memories, I am struck by the fact that it was the people that made the experience significant, not the fishing. I would never choose to fish alone.
I think God has hidden a life lesson in that idea.
Christians know they’re called to do a different kind of fishing — the spiritual kind.
Jesus said to two of His closest friends, Peter and Andrew, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19, English Standard Bible).
My first job after graduation was as a full-time missionary on a college campus.
While working on this campus, I broke the school up into ponds — natural places where people gathered.
The pond I was given to fish was a women’s dormitory on campus.
I met and mentored women in this dorm who were interested in discovering more about faith and developing a relationship with Jesus.
As these students became friends, we connected about life — through fun together and through spiritual growth. It was an amazing time. Connecting the importance of a relationship with God with my new friendships was deeply impactful for them and for me.
But my life looks different now. My job has changed. I don’t fish as often as I used to in the literal or spiritual sense.
When I worked on campus, focusing on individual dorms to intentionally build relationships with people was part of my every day. Now, I put in full days at the office, drive home, make dinner and resist the urge to pass out on my couch. At the end of the day, I’m too tired to think about meeting new people. It seems like one more obligation to add to my list.
While it feels like I don’t have time to create new relationships from the ground up, the reality is I’ve been wading through ponds all day.
Ponds are places where common interests and daily life intersect. Ponds are businesses, neighborhoods, coffee shops, carpools and classrooms.
Someone on the shore has to offer the line of salvation to people in need of a Savior. I need to be intentional because it is not likely that people will approach me to ask about Jesus.
We are all called to community. We cannot live life alone. We are not effective alone. We are social by design.
The purpose of community is being known and knowing others. You have to let people into your life to see the good, the bad and the in-between. Community is built from intentional friendships that form us into the people we are created to be.
As a creature of comfort, I find myself curling up in a cozy group of activities and meetings with people I already have relationships with. I’m not venturing beyond my comfort zone to engage with new people.
Why would I?
The purpose of community is not to escape from the world or avoid being stained by its influence. Community creates a place to refuel and refocus.
When I have the right perspective, my community reminds me of the importance of loving others.
So how can I combine creating new community with investing in the spiritual lives of people around me?
I started by thinking through the places where my friends and I already spend our time.
Much of my week revolves around coffee. My first step to building new community can be as simple as greeting the baristas at my coffee shop by name. In a world of drive-thru’s and abbreviated conversations, I can establish trust through casual conversations with my baristas.
This is a pond that my friends and I already visit regularly, I just need more intentionality.
A few friends and I also attend a fitness class at a local dance studio. Dozens of women participated in the class.
As I brainstormed, I grew more excited about what could happen if we became more intentional with this opportunity. In the next class, I plan to introduce myself to a few women and see where the relationships go from there.
These steps are simple but significant. By being intentional with small opportunities, I can become a safe person for deeper conversations about faith and Jesus. Eventually, these little efforts will grow into relationships. Hopefully, the trust we build with people will give way to spiritual conversations.
I see my life as a series of ponds even in this new life season. Now I just need to grab my friends and go fishing.
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