One of my favorite books, A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean, opens,
In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. We lived at the junction of great trout rivers in western Montana, and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly fisherman who tied his own flies and taught others. He told us about Christ’s disciples being fishermen, and we were left to assume, as my brother and I did, that all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman.
In a lot of ways I can relate to this idea. My dad did not directly teach me that hunting and fishing were a spiritual activity, but I assumed they were in some ways. I grew up with an awesome pastor who used hunting stories as sermon illustrations more often than quotes from heroes of the faith. Almost all of my dad’s friends hunted and talked about hunting after church in the pews. When I was eight and wanted to go hunting with my dad, he said I’d have to sit still in church for the whole sermon to prove that I could not fidget and move before he would take me into the woods with him.
Since then, I have always tried to spiritualize hunting in a way that’s not realistic or biblical. As much as I wish hunting and fishing were spiritual gifts, they simply are not. Nonetheless, hunting and fishing actually help me live out biblical principles.
1. God calls us to enjoy his creation.
Part of fully enjoying God is enjoying what he made. If he created this world and everything in it, then to fully glory in him, we must spend time enjoying him through his gift: his creation. Revelation 4:11 says “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Spending time hunting and fishing help me enjoy God through his creation.
2. God calls us to take care of and to restore his creation.
In Genesis, God calls his creation good. Because nature and the world we live in reflect God’s goodness, part of our calling as Christians is to be good stewards of it. Further, as Christ has redeemed us, we are called to be part of his bigger restoration project. Some might believe that hunters are not, in fact, good stewards of creation. However, hunters generally practice some of the best conservation habits. Through hunting I have contributed to wildlife restoration programs, spent money on crops for the animals, and sacrificed a lot of time improving the habitat on our farm, not to mention helping control animal population to keep our ecological environment in balance.
3. God calls us to have good friendships. Now this one might seem like a stretch, but honestly good friendships are the way in which hunting has impacted me the most. My dad, brother and I have spent countless hours together because of hunting. Sharing this sport together has made a bond between us and at the very least gives us good time to spend together throughout the year. Many of my other friendships get good time together because we love to hunt and fish.
Hunting and fishing are by no means the only ways to fulfill our calling as believers. But the truth is, every time I spend hours by myself in the woods or in the cabin with my dad and brother, I find myself drawn closer to the Creator I love and the family he gave me.