What could have been


I think the price tag was still on the handle.”

Every year, my good friend Lance and I would take our families camping on one of Idaho’s greatest rivers. This one year Lance had splurged and bought himself a top of the line, high-end, ultra-light, fishing rod. He was more excited than a kid at Christmas to use that new pole.

We packed up our small raft and loaded it into the back of my truck, happily yapping about the first fishing voyage of the year. Lance and I knew the exact section of the river we wanted to fish, but before we could float through our own private trout heaven, we had to negotiate some hefty rapids. We weren’t new to floating this river, but generous springtime runoffs had the river running extra high, and the rapids had a little more attitude than we expected on that July morning.

Finally in the water, we bounced, bobbed and sloshed our way through, but before we knew it, the rapids bucked us one last time, almost unexpectedly, right at the high rock wall forming the river’s edge. Instinctively, Lance put his oar out to try and stop our raft from slamming into the rocks. It doesn’t take a degree in physics to know that, in spite of Lance’s efforts, we were not going to stop the current or the raft from colliding with the rock wall. Before Lance knew it, the recoil of the oar meeting the rocks catapulted him over the back of the raft and into the river, dunking him instantly.

As quickly as Lance landed in the water, he was climbing back onto the raft, with the shock of what happened and the cold water slapping him in the face. I quickly grabbed him to help, and as fast as it all happened, it was over. The river calmed, and we both stared at each other in stunned silence.

The silence didn’t last long.

As soon as Lance looked at the pole holder to assess the damage, he realized his beautiful new rod was gone. He let out a groan. Somehow, when he fell from the boat he kicked his prized fishing pole from the pole holder and donated it to the St. Joe River. He only uttered one statement, “I think the price tag was still on the handle.”

Both of us immediately felt a sense of loss. It wasn’t just the loss of the new pole, but a loss of what was to be. The stories we would tell and the anticipation of pulling trout as long as our arms sunk to the bottom, only to be replaced with a different story of wild rapids and one disappointing dunk. Lance had his old, stand-by fishing pole in camp, and we made do with what we had, but still we were saddened by what could have been.

Lately, I have been processing with God the idea of loss. Not a loss of something material or even a loved one, but the loss of what God originally meant for you and me. In the garden, God had perfect relationships with Adam and Eve. He walked and talked with them daily. When sin entered the scene, that relationship was broken. Even today, Christians have broken relationships with God. Because of sin, our fellowship with Him is broken and strained. But just like the lost fishing rod, that isn’t the end of the story.
When we mourn our sin and realize our relationship with God is not as He designed or desires it to be, we experience loss. And just as we had provision with an old rod back at camp, God has provided the way back to Him too. He gave us a way for our fellowship with Him to be restored. If we truly repent out of godly sorrow, we receive God’s grace, mercy and comfort. We are restored. God is after all a provider, and I think He holds a special spot for fishermen.

“For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” – Romans 5:19

Lance and I made the most of the trip and still caught fish. We still had fun and added memories to our years of friendship, but we’ll never know what could have been. That to me is so much of our walk with God. God walks with us and in our relationships with Him, and wonderful experiences occur. But until we are with Him for eternity, we will long for what could have been.

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