It was several years ago when I returned home from a little league baseball game and my wife asked me a question. My son was 10 years old and I was his coach. As a former professional baseball player, I enjoyed giving back to the game and seeing my son grow in his own skills. My wife had noticed how intensely engaged I was as the third-base coach giving signs and encouraging the players. “Eric, what are you thinking about when you coach third-base?”
I stepped mentally back into the moment and like the movie The Matrix a cascade of thoughts and questions started filing through my mind. I went on to share more than 20 things that ran through my mind as I dissected everything from game situations, defense (remember these kids are 10 years old), pitching tendencies, catching tendencies, coaching tendencies of my opponent (and observing what he or she is telling his own team from the dugout), who is on base, who is batting, who is coming up to bat, and many other things. My wife’s mouth dropped when I said I do this EVERY SINGLE PITCH because each pitch presents a new game situation that impacts what signs I give as a third-base coach.
You see, all my years of baseball had taught me how to think and assimilate information so I could be prepared for every situation. And as the years and experience grew, this process became automatic. As I thought about this, I realized that I do the same things as an angler whenever I prepare to fish (and as I fish)—EVERY CAST in EVERY PART of the day. See if you can relate.
PREPARING TO FISH
- Where am I going to fish? What is the season? What flies will I need? What are the water conditions? Will I fish mostly dries, nymphs, streamers, or all? How long will I be on the stream? Will I need my backpack, chest pack, hip pack, or sling pack? Water bottles or camelback (and always my Sawyer purifier)? Clothing? Food? On and on I go.
- What ARE the actual water conditions? Where will I enter the stream? What will be my plan in fishing this stretch of water? Which technique and flies does this water call for? Any dangerous spots? Which are the prime spots? How will I fish them? What is on/in the water (bugs)? What has been hatching and what will hatch? On and on I go.
- Did I land the fly where I intended? Where will I cast next? What am I seeing on the water? Any rising fish? Any new structures emerging that I can see in the water? Should I step up or down before my next cast? How many more casts until I feel I have covered the water? Am I presenting the fly the way I need? Should I change flies based on what I am observing? Which kind of cast does my next cast call for? Any obstructions behind me or in front of me? On and on I go.
If you are NOT an angler, you may think this sounds obsessive. You may be right! But if you ARE an angler, you know that these questions become automatic. You are able to process subconsciously all these questions and more (engaging your other senses) as data points that flow like the stream in which you stand. They become effortless and fishing unfolds before you…hopefully with some rewards landing in your net. I absolutely love the “mental” side of fishing and certainly the beauty of actually fishing.
The question I ponder today is this, “Have I trained my mind (spiritual mind) to ask good questions on a regular basis? Have I allowed myself to experience faith in such a way that a “matrix” of questions flow through my mind bringing awareness automatically to how I live each moment of each day?”
Romans 12:2 says this: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Renewing of your mind literally translates changing the way you think. So, I ask, what would it look like for you to develop a new mind in your faith journey; learning to think, ask questions, and live your life in the same fluid way an experience angler fishes or a professional baseball player coaches 10 year olds? For sure, this does not happen overnight. Yet those who will commit their journey with intentionality to follow God and live into his intentions each day will begin to mature the mind that will impact the “dailiness” of life to live into God’s good, pleasing and perfect will.
SPIRITUAL PRACTICE: THE EXAMEN
There is a spiritual practice dating back over a thousand years called the Examen. In simplicity, the Examen helps one review their day (like rewinding a movie) to see where one was in alignment with God AND where one had forgotten about God or lived apart from God’s intentions in some way. When this practice is repeated over many days, weeks, even months, it shapes and forms the mind to live with more awareness and connection with God the next day. It changes the way you think.
PRACTICE THE EXAMEN
For one week, end your day with a few minutes of quiet. Perhaps sit and simply breathe to allow yourself to settle and slow down. Have a notebook or journal on hand an ask yourself these questions each evening (or you could begin your day the same way only reflecting on the prior day):
- For what am I most grateful today? For what am I least grateful?
- When did I have the deepest sense of connection with God, others and myself today? When did I feel the least sense of connection?
- Where did I see the Fruit of the Spirit in me today (Galatians 5:22-23)? Where was there the absence of good fruit in my life?
- What else do I observe about my day to which the Spirit of God is affirming? What do I need to confess?
[Note: To learn more about this practice and other spiritual practices, see the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Calhoun.]
SCRIPTURE REFLECTION: Colossians 3:1-17