One of the most fun parts of getting into a specific outdoor sport is all the gear. It gives you something to dream about during the off-season when it’s cold and your playground is covered in snow. Of course, it also gives you something to spend all your money on if you’re not careful!
But off-season can be a great time for reflection on your outdoor activities – how they impact your physical and spiritual health, how the Lord reveals Himself to you in nature, and how you might be able to use your recreational activities to minister to others.
Living in the city, I do more hiking than any other activity. But my primary outdoor sport, besides hiking, is fly fishing. When I get a chance to get far from the city, into the Sierras or the Rockies, there’s nothing more peaceful and restorative for me than stepping into a stream and following it like a well worn path in search of wary trout.
If you’re not familiar with fly fishing you might think that it doesn’t take much to do. You just need a rod and a couple of flies and you’re ready to fish. And to some extent that’s true. But open a fly fishing catalog or stop by a fly shop and you’ll get the feeling that you need a million pieces of equipment just to even try to catch a trout. The fish themselves will laugh you out of the water if you show up without the latest and greatest widget attached to your vest, at least according to the gear industry. But in all fairness, it is true that the experience can be much richer with a few extra pieces of equipment.
When I head out onto a river, I start by assembling my 4-piece rod and stringing it up. Now the rod also has to have a reel to hold the three or four lines you use: backing to take up space and pad the other lines, a fly line that provides weight when casting since your fly is virtually weightless, and a monofilament leader that makes your last few feet of line invisible so as not to spook the fish. If you’ve been using the same leader for a while then you probably have some tippet tied on to the end to extend the life and length of the leader. Of course, at the end of the tippet you tie on your favorite fly, which you chose from your fly box that has a hundred or so specimens of different sizes, patterns, and colors to help you best match the conditions.
If the water is cold like in a high mountain stream or a river during the spring melt then you’ll want a pair of waders, sort of like overalls that keep the water off of your skin when you’re standing in the middle of the river. These can be neoprene or a breathable waterproof fabric, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Many waders, like mine, are stockingfoot, meaning that I have to put my wading boots over them. Besides a hat to protect my face from the sun and my eyes from fly hooks zipping by, the last item is my fishing vest. But that is really a Pandora’s Box of more gear: a net hanging from my back, forceps dangling from a retractable zipline for removing hooks from a fish’s mouth, nippers for cutting line, and pockets filled with other tools and spare parts for the journey. Only after spending about 20 minutes donning all the necessary gear do I finally step out into the current in search of my prey.
Writing about all of this, I can’t help but think about the Full Armor of God described in Ephesians. Paul was writing from prison to the church at Ephesus in Asia Minor, modern Turkey, warning them about the battles they will face, both with men and with demons. And urging them to go into the battle fully equipped, ready for anything.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm, then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.
As I read this passage, I have to ask myself, I put so much time and energy into planning and preparing my gear for a day of fishing, but do I put the same effort into planning my daily battle against the schemes of the enemy?
Questions for thought
The next time you are packing or getting geared up for an outdoor adventure, think about the full armor of God. Do you have everything? Have you spent time putting on all the pieces you might need for that day’s battle?
What keeps you from intentionally gearing up each and every day for the spiritual battles we know we can expect? Laziness? Doubt? Self-confidence?
In your outdoor recreation, what is the single most important piece of equipment you need? What about in your daily spiritual battles – what’s the most important piece of spiritual equipment you need to defend against the enemy?
Heavenly Father, you’ve given to us in you word everything we need to live this Christian life and to defend ourselves against the enemy. Remind us each day to put on our battle gear before stepping out the door. Sweep away the cobwebs that have grown over our swords and shields, and remind us that the enemy is real, the battle is real, and that we will need to be prepared if we want to survive. We want to be strong in your mighty power, Lord. So cover us every day with your armor and arm us with your word. Amen.