The following is part of a book that I’ve been writing about my experiences in ministry –
FISHING AMONGST THE GATORS
I was out fishing the other day at one of my new favorite places, CREW Flint Pen Strand. It’s down at the end of Bonita Beach Road to the east, just about as far as you can go.
It was getting late in the evening, and it was quite cool and comfortable. I was having a fair amount of success – probably about 2-3 fish that evening. I was trying some different colors of artificial worms and different retrieve rates to see what might be effective.
One of the things about Flint Pen Strand is that there are LOTS of alligators. I’m not talking about just 2 or 3; that evening there were around 20 or so within 200 yards of me. 2-footers, 6-footers, even a couple of 12+ footers swimming around!
Now, I’ve lived in Florida most of my life, and I know that wild alligators will not approach nor attack humans unless provoked. As long as people leave them alone, gators will keep their distance. The only issue is if humans have been feeding them or messing with them in some way – then their behavior changes.
I was enjoying the evening, and thinking about the irony of being so at peace while surrounded by creatures that many people fear. And I started thinking about some church business meetings that I’ve attended –
There have been some church meetings where I was filled with anxiety and dread. I began to wonder, “Why is it that I can be so at peace here amongst the gators, and yet so anxious sometimes at church?” (Not here in Bonita – OTHER churches I have served!)
I don’t know the full answer to this question, but I think it has to do with mutual respect and awareness. The alligators out there on the lake that night were aware of me, but as long as I didn’t threaten them they weren’t going to threaten me. I was aware of them and I kept a watchful eye in case any of them got too close, but overall we left each other alone.
If only we humans could treat each other this way! Respect, patience, thinking of others first – this is the way of Christ. Jesus did not come to force us to bow down and worship Him; Jesus came so that we might have life, and life abundantly.
I will continue to fish out in nature, enjoying God’s world and respecting it. And I pray that we will continue to provide safe places for the people around us to come and experience the love of Christ, too.
- Rev. Bill