Saturday, November 05, 2005

"River of Faith"

Pembroke cast his line, and the fly drifted down onto the shimmering surface of Big Wood River. “You see how I did that?” he said.

His young grandson Harry nodded and said, “Watch me.” He began whipping his fly through the air.

Pembroke ducked to avoid getting hooked. Harry’s pole bent over backwards as he swung it toward the river. “Oh no, not again.”

“I told you you were too close to those Aspen trees,” Pembroke said. “Get your hook unsnagged. It’s about time to go home.”

“We just got here,” Harry said. “Can't we stay longer?”

Pembroke sighed. “All right.” He felt heaviness weighing on his eyes and wanted to get home for his afternoon nap. He’d depended upon these for quite a while now and even more so since his open-heart surgery. He heard splashing footsteps downriver. His chest tightened when he looked up. Pastor John Macky was headed his way. “Hurry up and find that thing,” he snapped at Harry. “We’ve got to go.”

“Okay, I'm trying,” Harry said from the brush under the Aspen trees.

“How’s the fishing?” Pastor John said with a friendly grin. He was a lean man with dark hair.

Pembroke frowned. “Not too good, actually. We’re about to call it a day.”

“Catch anything?”

“Naw. How about you?”

“Oh, five or six.” John glanced downstream.

Pembroke raised his eyebrows. “I’ll believe it when I see it.” He knew he had the pastor in a corner since it was catch-and-release.

John chuckled. “How's your recovery coming along?”

“I’m doing all right.” Pembroke slowly reeled in his line.

“Well, I’ll let you get back to your fishing. Why don’t you drop by the church one of these days. We have services Saturday and Sunday.”

Pembroke sliced the air with his fly rod, swinging it back and forth several times and then letting the fly settle over his fishing hole. “You ought to know better than that, John. I spent the last thirty years teaching my students to depend on their reason. A long time ago, I came to the conclusion that I could never live by faith.”

“You mean to tell me you taught college for all these years and that’s the best alibi you can come up with?”

Pembroke jerked on his fly line. “Don’t get me riled, John. Maybe some people can live by faith, but I’ve spent my whole career nosing around dusty library stacks, dissecting the classic philosophies and world religions with the scalpel of reason. I know what I’m talking about.”

“Yeah, but I can tell by your voice you don’t believe it anymore. I could tell that the day I visited you in the hospital.”

“Oh, yes I do.” Pembroke jerked his fly line several times, trying to simulate the natural movements of a mosquito on water.

“Alright,” John said, “if you ever change your mind, you’re always welcome.” He started to walk.

“I just can’t live by faith, I’m telling you.” Pembroke lowered his rod and looked directly him.

“You already are,” John said.

“What are you talking about?”

“Every time you get in your car you’re acting in faith that the other drivers aren’t going to hit you. Every time you write a check you’re acting in faith that the bank will cover it. Practically every aspect of your life is lived by faith.”

Pembroke reeled in his line.

Harry came out of the brush and headed up river a ways.

“Maybe so,” Pembroke said, “but I’m still living by reason. I’m a child of the enlightenment.”

John frowned. “Well, I’ll be going then.”

“Got you, didn’t I?” Pembroke smirked. “Christianity breaks down when it meets cold reason face to face.”

John supressed a smile. “You keep talking about reason. It seems like your reason tells you that if you live by faith, you might make a foolish mistake.”

Pembroke nodded. “You can’t prove that you’re right. That’s the problem I have with faith.”

“Actually, you’ve got more faith than I do.”

“What are you talking about?” Pembroke said.

“Way I see it, it takes a lot more faith to live by reason.”

“Why’s that?”

“Well, let’s say it turns out that you’re right and I’m wrong. When I die, what do I lose?”

“Nothing,” Pembroke said. “You die just like me and that’s it.”

“On the other hand, let’s say that I’m right and you’re wrong and you die denying Jesus Christ to your last breath. What do you have to lose if it turns out that Jesus really is Lord?”

Pembroke slowly reeled in his line. “You’ve got a good point there.” He paused. “But I still can’t do it. Something in me just won’t cave in.”

John nodded. “Well, I’m sorry to hear that. If you change your mind, you’re always welcome.” He started upriver.

“Look around you,” Pembroke said with an expansive gesture of his arm. “This is God. God is in nature. He’s not in a book.”

“Yeah, he’s in nature.” John switched his fishing pole to his other hand. “But if he wants to inspire a book, he can do that, too. Sure, he’s out here. Nature is beautiful. The world is a beautiful creation. But how reasonable is it to worship the creation and deny the creator?”

Pembroke looked upstream. “Time to go, Harry.” John started walking over the riverrock. “Good to see you, Pembroke. Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.”

Pembroke nodded. “Good luck with the fish.”

Harry ran up. “What were you talking to Pastor Macky about?”

“Ah, he wanted me to come to church.”

“What did you tell him?”

Pembroke shook his head and looked away. "We need to get home."

"Ah, come on. I want to see how many fish Pastor John catches."

Pembroke looked at Harry, just stared at him for a minute. He averted his gaze out across the rippling water. He kneeled down and started putting his tackle back into the tackle box. "You can ask him on Sunday."


Blogger Becky said...

Nice metaphor!


9:56 AM  

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