“Darn it, I forgot my camera,” I said to my son. I didn’t think I would need it. It looked cloudy and overcast out my dining room window while I was getting ready to take him to school. When I pulled out of the neighborhood and saw the pink backdrop illuminating a field of naked trees I felt God say, “It’s okay, you need to listen; take in what I’m going to show you today without the distraction of your camera.”
Dressed for a morning walk on the beach, I drove with the windows down, pulled in to my regular sandy spot on the way home. I don’t mind the stench of fish anymore. It smells like life to me now; of celebrating His creation. But today, the smell hangs unusually heavy in the air.
When I cross the threshold from parking lot to beach, I interrupt a seagull family reunion on the shoreline. A woman wearing sunglasses and running shoes holding a camera in her hand walks up behind me. “I forgot my real camera,” I tell her, trying to capture the family photo with my phone.
“So this is where the fish are, huh,” she replies.
That’s when I realize it. These aren’t just a few fish strewn on the beach, and this is no family reunion. There are spoils of fish to feed thousands of hungry birds.
I zigzag my way around the silver carcasses, avoiding their bulging eyes and scarred bodies lying like wounded soldiers in the sand. And suddenly I remember what I said yesterday in my blog post, what He told me a few days earlier:
“We’re not meant to catch every fish, or the eye of every reader, or the heart of every man. Just those he gives us. And that is enough.”
My hand gapes over my mouth and tears drip down my cheek. His message wasn’t finished. He was giving me more.
“There are more than just a few fish to catch Shelly.”
And as I continue down the beach, my eye hooks on a stubby stick pushed in the sand marking a message. Really? Two love letters in the sand in one week?
The longer I walk, the smell of life transforms to the putrid smell of death. What I saw still haunts me.
Scattered silver scales and sawed off fins stretched in obscene piles as far as my eye can see; armies of seagulls standing still, yards away from the fish. As if the riches of their morning breakfast transforms to a plate of grief.
“They represent forgotten souls strangled by evil’s bony fingers,” he whispers. “Gasping for breath because no one told them I could save them.”
“The smell is horrible,” a beach walker calls out to me holding her arms open, shoulders pulled up to her ears. “Why do you think this happened, why are there so many fish on the beach? I’ve never seen this happen before.”
I wanted to tell her it is a message from God; He’s trying to get our attention. The smell of our sin reeks. But instead of that I say, “Maybe God wants to feed the birds this way today.”
Am I like one of those seagulls, stuffed full with the riches of His goodness, standing on the sidelines of lost souls while they die without hope? Walking among scattered carnage keeping the message of Truth to myself.
What do you do when you realize your dream isn’t as much about a book, or a platform, puny words knocked out in a blog post or being known? It’s bigger than that. It’s God-sized.
Because lasting fulfillment isn’t in dollars, approval from others, a golden ticket, and the way favor found you one day, or in the numbers you anxiously seek. It comes from the welcome of those waiting with arms outstretched at heaven’s gate. The ones He sends to you today, to reveal His Kingdom now.
Fulfillment is in the Message, not the method.
Fish need catching. Many will die, pushed up on the shore of life’s frailties before they hear the message of hope. Are you willing to tell them, to be the messenger?
I sat down on a jagged rock, looking into the sun rising slow and shimmering over the water, watching the waves break over the groin, and surrendered. Surrendered perfect prose, saying the right thing, a platform, a book with my name on the spine, friendships, and being known or unknown. To deliver the message. His message to the hopeless from the life He gave me.
Are you ready to catch some fish with me?