I'm in a small bible study that meets every other week. Recently we discussed the 23rd Psalm which is so familiar to so many. My friend Doug noted that David (the author of the Psalm) used the visual picture of a shepherd because he was so intimately familiar with the metaphor. He challenged us to come up with our own that made the 23rd a bit more personal. I did so (although in the form of a story) and share it here...
I was hiking along the bank of my favorite river last summer when I noticed a guy in Clacka Craft nosed in to the bank. I thought at the time that this must be the new guide I had heard about. No one was sure where he came from but people raved about his abilities with even the most novice of fishermen. He waved me over and invited me to float with him for a while. I had been fishing alone (unsuccessfully) for a while and thought it might be worth my while to find out if what the others said was true. Something about him drew me to his boat.
He said, “Make yourself comfortable in the front seat…I’ll be on the oars today.” Immediately I felt at ease. It was as if I was with an old fishing buddy who knew just how far I like to be from the bank and which runs I liked to drift. I was able to relax and take in the surroundings, to feel the warm upstream breeze, to smell the grasses on the riverbank baking in the sun. He pointed out an eagle as we floated under its cedar perch. He gave me a few pointers, delighted in my casting and gave out a few whoops as I landed more (and bigger) fish than I’ve ever seen before. I found myself thinking he must have been the son of the old rancher that owned a good chunk of the land in the area because occasionally he’d say, "I hope you like the view because my dad and I made this for people like you.”
He was an incredible oarsman. As we approached the whitewater section where the canyon narrows I prepared to get out for the long portage. Instead he said, “I know this is scary and that you fear all of the boulders, hydraulics, and waves that lie ahead, but those are just stories that you are telling yourself. Let’s run this thing!” He continued softly, “Here, put on my PFD. It is tied to the boat so even if you fall overboard, I’ve still got you. Now just sit back and enjoy.”
The ride was exhilarating. He expertly maneuvered our driftboat through a tiny chute between two rocks and bashed through (and then over) a wall of water that looked as if it wanted to claim us as its victim, as I held on for dear life. He laughed as we eddied out into a deep blue-green pool at the bottom of the run. He rowed us to the bank and said, “You look hungry.”
He produced a large Yeti cooler and pulled out an incredible river-side feast. Ripe apples and pears, multiple cheeses, perfect sandwiches, and of all things a pecan pie! He cracked open two Kokanee and handed me one, keeping one for himself. Just then a few other fishermen came by hauling their gear and struggling to drag their boat over the rocks and past our banquet. They reported that they had had little success today and asked how we were doing. My guide told them we had pretty much hammered them all day and that his client had performed precision casting and expert fishing skills. He also related how proud he was that we were able to shoot the rapids with courage. They mumbled and went on their way as I beamed.
I told my guide how lucky I felt to have run into him and that this was the best day of my life. I wished it would never end. He said, “I’ve been watching you fish alone for a long time. I waved at you, but it was you who got in the boat.” Again, he waved his hand, but this time he was pointing all around the valley. He said, “Anyone who rides with me the way you did can stay here and be with me forever. This is all yours. My dad and I made it for you.”
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