I love fishing. As often as I can throughout the year, I’ll load up my kayak and my fishing gear, or hop on a boat with my father-in-law and head for the water. I greatly enjoy casting that line out, hoping to get a bite from a hungry fish.
For the fisherman, fishing is an activity that brings relaxation, enjoyment, and the thrill of success. For the fish, however, it’s a lesson in giving into temptation, chasing after something desirable, only to find a hiding hook and be caught up in an unexpected place.
Along these lines, Aldo Leopold, in his book A Sand County Almanac, once wrote these words about fish:
“How like fish we are: ready, nay eager, to seize upon whatever new thing some wind of circumstance shakes down upon the river of time! And how we rue our haste, finding the gilded morsel to contain a hook.”
Here Leopold points out a very important, and unavoidable, flaw of all humans – that we are prone to rush to new things – seductive things, enticing things, exciting things, things that we THINK will improve our lives – only to discover some kind of “hook” hidden within that thing.
I know this has been true in my own life over the years.
I’ve chased after things that I thought would satisfy or fulfill me – a new job, a new house, a new car – only to soon discover the ways that the new and enticing thing led me into a trap of financial hardship and burden.
I’ve given into the enticement of new circumstances in life – areas where I thought I was needed, things that I was asked to do and assented to – only to experience extra stress and a disappointing lack of enjoyment.
Quick to hasten to the enticement of new things, only to find a hook hiding within the “gilded morsel.” Just like a fish.
The funny thing is that fish don’t tend to learn. They repeat the same mistake, over and over again, sometimes even immediately after being hooked the first time. Maybe God didn’t give them intelligence in this area because He wanted to use them to show us something.
Fish don’t learn. But do we?
We have this human tendency to be drawn to things that entice our own desires. And all of our desires are different. We don’t all crave the same things and so, therefore, we aren’t enticed by the same things.
But we’ve all given into whatever those things are that do entice us. Some of those things are more damaging and destructive than others. Some just cause us some inconvenience or a setback in life. Others may cause tremendous harm to ourselves or our relationships.
Whatever the thing is, the question is not “why did I do that?”, but, rather, “What can I learn from this?” How can realizing and paying attention to all the times that we have bitten into a hidden hook cause us to change our behaviors both now and in the future? How can it help us to understand that not everything that glitters is gold, and that not every opportunity, positive circumstance, offer, idea, or ambition is going to bring about good things in our lives?
Probably the most important thing we can do, in order to avoid the hidden hooks, is to carefully consider each of these new circumstances and opportunities, and then to make a plan for what we will do if it isn’t’ as good for us as we think it will be.
When we’ve seized upon the new thing or the new circumstance or the new opportunity, and we discover that we’ve bitten into a hook and we’re now experiencing hardship or regret, or we’ve caused damage to some area of our lives, or we realize that we’ve made a great error, we must have a way to bounce back, and then we must learn from the mistake.
Repeating them makes us even more like fish. And God didn’t create us with the intelligence of a fish. He designed us in His image – with the ability to reason, to apply wisdom, to learn from mistakes, and to be redeemed.
Life is not without its failures. Humans are not without their flaws. But all can be fixed and redeemed and made whole, if we allow ourselves to grow and change in the ways that keep us trapped.