Soiled Jeans of Glory

It’s once a century that I hear a true, God-given gift of a story. They make me pee my pants when I do.

I don’t mean like Aladdin—I don’t want your daily provisos, as glorifying as they may be, and keep your Holy Spirit-thoughts to yourself. I mean an example of the Lord working in someone’s life that’s so meaningful it edifies believer after believer after believer. I mean the Lord sinking his teeth into a brother’s life; that’s what I want. I want the big stuff.

The Lord’s finally given me another one. I’m a big believer in stories—aren’t the Gospels stories?—so when I find a jewel like this I tend to spew it all over everyone I meet. Thankfully, and not coincidentally, the Lord gave me this one right before a blogging day. So sit back, relax, take what the Spirit gives you from this…and prepare for the spew.

Fish. Take That, Wolf.

I have a good friend—let’s call her Rachel Wolf (not her real name). Last weekend, Rachel was at a conference in Corpus Christi, and she went to the beach for a walk.

The beach was short and shelly—not ideal, but she’d sat through four hours of lawyers jabbering over lawyerly things, and a little pain was the lesser of two evils. She walked slow, eyes down, careful. She wasn’t even able to see how long the beach was, she had to look so carefully at the ground to keep from cutting her feet on a shell.

And she tripped.

She stood up straight, frustrated. She turned to see what she’d missed, and she saw a fish gasping on the beach. She’d missed an entire fish—either that, or the fish had targeted her. She imagined the heavens mumbling above her: Fish. Take that, Wolf.

She went toward it. It had to have come from the water; the sea was only a foot or so away, and every now and then a wave would wash it farther up the beach. She knew it needed help—it would die. She reached toward its middle to flip it back to sea, but she stopped. A tiny voice told her no.

She reached toward its tail instead, but it was too slippery—after a bit she’d only gotten the fish dying and sandy. She stood up straight again, watching, even more frustrated.

Father, what do I do? I can’t help it—it’ll just die here. Why did you send me a dead fish?

Swim, Fish. Swim.

“Hello!” There was a man standing next to her—another thing she hadn’t seen. He looked where she was looking. He frowned. “Huh. That’s dying.”

“Hello.” Looked at him. Looked back to the fish. “I don’t know how to help it.”

He bent down. “Well, that’s a puffer fish.” Started to shift it, carefully. “It’s good you didn’t touch it. Now everything’s all right if you just move them onto their belly—they don’t have spines there.” Had the fish upright. Slowly put his hand under it. The fish had stopped squirming. Its gills had stopped moving.

He flipped it toward sea. The water was clear; they watched it sit, silent. She turned to him again. “Will it die?”

Smiled. “Nah, it’ll be fine. It just needs to let some water run over its gills, re-oxygenate a little. I think we got it in time.”

They kept talking—small things. Really watching the fish. Slowly it started to move again, its tail brushing the sand apathetically.

And it started to swim, like a wounded dog, but healing quickly. Every stroke brought it more life. But Rachel saw that it wasn’t going straight—it was going toward a jetty. Toward a rock cliff, where the waves got harsher. Where it would be crushed.

Father, why the rocks? Where’s it going?

She got the man’s attention. “It’s not swimming strong enough. It’ll die there.” She pointed. He said something short.

Father, please help it swim. Why should your fish die? Why should what you made be killed? Please help it swim.

The man was silent, watching. She looked at him, but turned away quick. His face was blank—he was just waiting.

Father, please help it. Don’t let your fish die. Please hurry.

And the fish started to swim stronger. She looked at the man again—he was smiling. “They’re not strong swimmers, you know. And he’ll have to fight the tide; it’ll be a long road for him. But I think he’ll make it.”

She thanked him, and she turned back to watch it go. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him turn to leave, and she started to walk the other way, thinking.

Soon, she turned back again. The man was gone—the beach was empty.

God’s People, Fit for Drowning

There’s a verse in Hebrews 13: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

After she got back home, my friend read that verse. She turned to her roommate, and she told her the story of the man. There had been a gnawing feeling in her—this man wasn’t a man at all, perhaps. She wanted her roommate’s opinion.

Her roommate sat back. “Rachel, you told me your greatest struggle right now is trusting other believers. Nonbelievers, you have all the grace in the world for, but believers you know ought to do better than they do, so you have no respect for them. Right?”

She nodded.

“Well there’s a puffer fish in every believer I’ve ever known—I’ve never met a man who couldn’t tear somebody down. It’s easy. But they all have a belly somewhere, you’ve just got to find it. And then the mistakes start to come, and you wonder how these people were ever chosen by the Lord. You wonder if they’re even saved to start with sometimes. They’re all terrible swimmers—but somehow they make it. It’s not pretty; none of God’s people were really made to swim alone. But somehow we make it. You see? And when did the fish swim away?”

“When I prayed.”

“When you prayed.” She smiled, and she turned back to her work.


Spew complete.