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The Parable of the Dying Fish

As Abuelo Martinez pulled on his long, brown, rubber fishing boots, Juan Cuelos reached high on the shelf for his fishing pole. It wasn’t much- somewhat tarnished and spattered with dirt. Abuelo stood from the rough wooden chair, and quickly pulled a rusty tackle box from the counter and hurried out the door. “Come now Juan, we mustn’t dawdle.” Juan dropped the old fishing rod and looked over his shoulder. He bent down quickly, picked it up and ran to catch up with his grandfather. Finally catching up to Abuelo, who was already far down the dusty dirt lane, Juan could hardly keep pace. Abuelo walked so briskly that Juan had to run every few steps just to keep up. He would walk and then fall behind a little bit, and have to run three or four steps. Between gasps for breath, Juan uttered as best as he could, “Abuelo…Must we go so fast? …Abuelo… slow down, that we might enjoy the walk! It’s such a nice sunny day. We have the whole day to spend at the water and to fish Abuelo, slow down!” Abuelo was quick to answer. “Juan, we have no time… It is running out quickly and we must hurry.” Upon arrival of their destination, Juan could not believe his eyes. He stopped dead in his tracks as Grandfather rushed on. Pain pierced the innermost of his heart, as he now saw why Abuelo had been so urgent. How could he have been so silly as to have wanted to enjoy the pleasurable weather, when such a need was existent? This wasn’t the peaceful lake as he had imagined. Birds weren’t chirping their merry melodies. The sun wasn’t shining here. Darkness loomed over the black water and a chilling breeze caused him to shiver. A swarm of bugs flogged him, screeching in his ears. The stench was unbearable and the air reeking of death. Juan stared out, quickly realizing that this was nothing less than a swamp. It wasn’t an ordinary swamp though. There was definitely something different about this one. Juan walked towards the water. What he saw caused his stomach to churn. Decaying animals and water life floated on thick, dark liquid that seemed to whisper “Death… Death… I am the trap that has ensnared these, …and I am their Death.” Juan shuddered at the raspy undertone. Abuelo stood way out in the middle of this damp, dark swamp, and caught his eye. “Juan, hurry! Come help these!” Juan hesitantly stepped out into the water. He could feel the muck and mire beneath his feet. “Juan, Come!” Juan drew in a breath of courage and ran towards his grandfather in the center. When he reached them, he could feel the hundreds of fish swimming between his legs and around his feet, and in horror yelled over all the noise. “Abuelo, What must I do? …Must I cast a far line? “No Juan, there is no time for anything fancy! Just reach in and grab them… Hurry!” There were so many fish swimming around them that Juan did not know what to do. He stood there inertly casting his eyes over the scene. People were scattered everywhere. All kinds of people- there were black, white, and Hispanic like himself. It was easy to see that most of these were the Christians of the community. Some were in boats in the water, casting nets. They seemed to be catching a few fish, but not many. Others were standing on the shoreline, casting out a line and pulling in one at a time, definitely catching a lot less than those in the boat. But Juan looked once again at his grandfather, standing there in waist deep water with only a few others, pulling them in by the handfuls. “Juan, hurry!” Abuelos voice pierced his trance. Juan quickly took Abuelo’s example and pulled out fish after fish, speedily rescuing them from their fatal quagmire. Juan reached in and pulled out a handful of fish and tossed them into a bucket. The buckets were passed as hastily to the shore as possible, but it wasn’t fast enough. Juan pulled out more fish, and with no where to put them he shouted, “Abuelo! There’s no place for these! Should I throw them back in?” “No Juan! They’ll die! Get them to the shore- whatever it takes!” Juan tossed each grimy fish to shore, as quickly as his small hands could do so. “Catch!” he yelled to those standing safely. Those on shore backed away and refused to catch them. “They’re dirty! Stop throwing them at us! They’re dirty!” “They’ll die!” Cried Juan. Every time a fish was denied on shore, several other fish in the water would float up dead to the surface. “Catch them! They’ll die!” Cried Juan, over and over, tears streaming down his face. He couldn’t get these to understand the loss they were making themselves responsible for. The day seemed to go on forever. They toiled for hours upon hours, catching these fish. Those on shore were never able to save as many of the endangered fish as those who were willing to get right into the filth of the swamp were. Sadly, they remained unproductive to the cause. Because of their fears and unwillingness, many fish’s lives, that had a chance to survive, never made it to the safety of the shore, and remained in a sea of death, hopelessness, and decay. God has called us to be fishers of men and though we would like to go fishing in the nice, clean, perspective area of safety that surrounds the church, I believe that God is calling us to the swamp. I believe that God wants us to get into the community and grab the souls by the handfuls. God is saying, “Get off the shore and stop worrying about getting dirty.” Those that are in need… They’re dirty. …And so were you. But Jesus took you in your filth, before he gave you that robe of righteousness that you wear today. Think about where you were at one time. Jesus came right down into your filth in order to pull you out. Can we reach souls from the safety of the fold? Can we reach them from the church house? A few, maybe… but I believe that God is saying that we need to go to where they are at. In order to save them from their pit, we have to get into the pit ourselves. In the pit is where we find the abundance of wounded and dying souls that will receive the message of our Lord, and will cause the angels in heaven to rejoice. When time becomes an issue, quantity becomes a superior issue. Where will we find the most in the little time that we have left? Look on the swamp- for, “Juan, we have no time… It is running out quickly, and we must hurry.” -Becky Nichols

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