Friday, June 5, 2015

From My Nature Journal: Fish Guts and the Gospel

Some people don’t fish because they don’t like the thought of fish guts.

I mean, what do you do with a keeper if you don’t know how to clean it? Or for some, if the very thought of touching anything’s entrails repulses them? Winter is coming, summer is a memory. Indulge me to reminisce about a July day several summers ago when I cleaned fish for the first time in my adult life.

Fishing is something I have always wanted to do more of.  Unfortunately, it is not something I took advantage of while living many years in Minnesota. All that lake access did nothing to bring out the Babe Winkelman in me, it took moving to Nebraska!  I bought three fishing licenses in almost two decades in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and these just to accompany several fishing excursions by men in the church – wonderful fellowship times in spite of my being ‘skunked’ in the fishing department. Yet since moving to this comparatively lake-forsaken prairie state, not only have I gotten a license each year to fish back in the north country, but I find myself longing for angling opportunities to come.

It’s not that entrails bother me.  Nor was it that I don’t care to eat fish; frankly, I think I could live on seafood.  Actually, it was because I was a bit embarrassed that I would not know what to do with the fish once I caught it.  So that summer was my big moment.  All my son and I caught that first time were a mess of little rock bass, a couple small perch, and one other fish I couldn’t identify at that time.  But since it was a whole lot bigger than any of the rockies or perch, we kept it.  I’ll admit it, though – my son Jarrett caught it.  (Unfortunately, long after it was eaten, I also determined it may have been a slightly under-legal-size bass – oops!  But it still tasted great. Please don’t report me.)

What a production it was when I cleaned them.  For some strange reason the whole family gathered ‘round and watched, as did the family friends who were visiting at the time.  I had hardly a clue what I was doing. Daughter Maren sighed with the sound of cutting the heads off and protested, “They're still alive, Dad, that’s cruel…”  Hunter Man replied, “It’s ok, they don’t feel a thing.” (I have no idea if this is true; it’s just what hunter men say in such circumstances.) My wife said, “Oh, my big, strong, handsome, meat-gathering man!” Hunter Man said, “De nada, mon petit chou.” Actually, she said I had better be careful not to cut off a finger.  When I was finally finished, most of the fillets were no bigger than the end of a teaspoon, except of course for those from the likely illegal bass, which were more the size of a tablespoon. (Sorry, I’m not into fish cheeks yet, supposedly the prime piece on the animal. I could barely see the side fillets as it was…)

Sometimes it's also like this in the spirit realm, isn’t it? Jesus asks us to be fishers
of people. But we don’t fish because we
don’t like the thought of fish guts... 

Words cannot describe the satisfaction of eating that first batch of tiny morsels.  They were delicious.  More than that, I had conquered my reticence.  And when my fishing veteran neighbor Don heard I had filleted rock bass, he said kindly, “Yeah, they’re good practice fish.  Boy, if you can fillet rock bass, you can fillet anything.”  (Translate:  “What in the heck would you want to mess with those little pests for anyway?!”)

Good memories…

Sometimes it's also like this in the spirit realm, isn’t it?  Jesus asks us to be fishers of people. But we don’t fish because we don’t like the thought of fish guts.  It’s as though we want the clean fillets to jump from the lake right into the cooler.  We don’t want to worry about the mess that’s sure to come.  And make no mistake, spiritual fishing can be messy. If one never wets a line one never has to worry about fish cleaning.  Yet Jesus asks us to reach out to all people, as they are, messes and all (theirs and ours!). “Don’t be repelled,” He says.  “Draw them in.  I will change them later.”

Maybe we’re like Mr. Wilson in the old Dennis the Menace comic.  Dennis laments, “I don’t like to play hide-and-seek with Mr. Wilson – I hide, but Mr. Wilson don’t seek.”  Do we seek?  Do we fish?

Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two empty boats on the shore; the fishermen were washing their nets.  He got into the one belonging to Simon Peter, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore.  Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.  When he had finished, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”  Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing.  Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”  When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break.  So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them.  And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink.  But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”  He and all with him were amazed at the catch of fish.  Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”  (Luke 5:1-10)
~~RGM, from one of the earliest
entries in my nature journal

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