Reflections on Salmon
About 10 days ago, we returned from four weeks in Prince William Sound on our little sailboat. Susan, even more than me, enjoys just being out there in the wilderness, away from the details of work and the city. She would be perfectly happy to spend the whole summer out there! We had the bays we visited to ourselves for the most part. There were only a few nights with another boat in the same cove. It’s a good contrast to the busyness of Anchorage in the summer.
We don’t do much fishing, and the winds are rarely good for sailing in Prince William Sound. We are what is called “gunkholers”. We find a nice gunky place to anchor and then go canoeing, hiking, and exploring. I like to check out streams for salmon, bears, and birds. This year, the pink salmon were amazing. We had one of the largest runs in many years. I’ve never seen so many fish in one place, and I’ve lived in Alaska for 40 years. We saw streams with thousands of fish gathered at the mouth or struggling up the shallow water. There was life and action everywhere. The fish bumped up against the canoe and made the water seem to boil.
You know, some of the fish looked really good. They were silvery, fresh and strong. Others were already dead, and we saw everything in between. In one cove we looked down through the clear water and saw hundreds of dead fish carpeting the bottom. It struck me that they are all in different stages of dying. Within a few weeks, even the freshest-looking of them will be dead and rotting.
I got to wondering whether they are aware of their fate! Surely they can look around and see what’s happening to others. But then I thought, they’re just like people. We’re all in various stages of dying, too. The young, strong, and beautiful people can’t imagine that they’ll ever be old and wrinkled and arthritic, but if you look around, the evidence is pretty strong! Us older folks, like the salmon that arrived at the stream early, are just in a little more advanced stage of dying. We were just like you young people a few years ago. We couldn’t imagine that we’d ever be old. Sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder who that old guy is. It can't be ME!
I’m reminded of a poem on a tombstone I saw in Haines several years ago:
Remember, youth, as you pass by,
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, so you must be.
Prepare, my friend, to follow me.
Pink salmon have a much shorter lifespan than we do, of course. They hatch in the spring, feed on the bodies of last year’s dead salmon, and go directly into the ocean. The first summer in salt water they stick close to shore and eat plankton. They leave for the deep ocean in September and become hunters. They grow from tiny fry to as much as 10 pounds in two summers. Two years is a short lifespan, but compared to eternity, our human lifespan of 70-80 years isn't much longer. I think life here on earth is kind of like a “free sample”, just a taste of what life really is. We won’t know real life until we can drink the water of life and eat from the tree of life in heaven. We’ll know real life when we’re in the presence of the Author of life, and when our dying flesh is replaced with living flesh.
There was a bumper sticker on one of the trucks that was launching a boat down in Whittier. It said, “Jesus is coming. Look busy.” You might have a job where everyone tries to look busy when the boss comes around, but it’s humorous to think you could “look” busy and fool God. It got me thinking about what Jesus wants us to be busy doing in anticipation of our death or His coming. If we agree He’s the Boss, what’s our job description? What does He want us to spend our short time on earth doing?
Susan searched the red letters of her Bible to put together a job description in Jesus’ words, and I want to share just some of what she found. Other writers of the Bible have even more to say, but these are straight from Jesus.
- Fear God (Luke 12:5)
- Hear My word (John 5:24)
- Believe on Him that sent Me. (John 5:24)
- Repent (feel regret about our sins and want to change) (Mark 1:15)
- Be born again in spirit (John 3:3)
- Humble yourself (Matthew 23:12, Luke 14:11)
- Deny yourself (Mark 8:34)
- Forsake all you have (Luke 14:33).
- Follow Me and (a promise), I will make you fishers of men (Matthew 4:19)
- Bear fruit (John 15:8)
- Ask and it shall be given (pray) (Matthew 7:7)
- Seek and ye shall find (Matthew 7:7)
- Seek first God’s kingdom and the rest shall be added (Matthew 6:33)
- Search the Scriptures (John 5:39)
- Worship in spirit and truth (John 4:23)
- Watch and be ready for the Lord’s return (Luke 12:40)
- Confess Me before men (Matthew 10:32)
- Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
- Forgive as we have been forgiven (Mark 11:26)
- Be merciful as God is merciful (Luke 6:36)
- Minister to others. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison. (Matthew 25:34-45)
- Teach the gospel, baptize others (Matthew 28:19)
- Lay up treasure in heaven. (Matthew 6:20)
In a nutshell, our job description is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). Paul calls the Church the body of Christ. That means it’s our hands that express Christ’s love in the world, and our voices that bring His message to others. We are the physical body through which the Spirit of God communicates.
In John 13:34, Jesus says, A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Soon afterward, in John 14:15, He says, If you love me, you will obey what I command.
Well, friends, those are our marching orders. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing when the Boss comes, or until our particular march toward death is finished. We all fall short, but it’s good to evaluate once in awhile, and desire to improve. Are we actually spending most of our time doing what Jesus asked us to do? With God, it will never do to “look busy.”
Susan's going to sing a special song: For the Glory of Your Name.
Note: This talk was presented by my husband Dennis at our small church.
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Source: www.SusanCAnthony.com, ©Susan C. Anthony