A Catfish and the Compassion of Jesus
I want to invite you to join me for coffee this morning at a small town diner. This is the same diner where my grandfather would meet all the old coots from town for a mean cup of coffee, a chat about the weather, and to share a yarn or two. I am sure every man in this small town has heard the story I am about to tell you.
My grandfather, Papa, was an accomplished fisherman. He could easily pull a trout from a lake, a roaring river, or even a skinny brook. Heck, I bet he pulled a few from the gutter out front. My papa could fish. I loved to go with him. We left at dawn with poles in hand and a bag of candy. This man knew how to bribe a grandkid.
My first fishing adventure was to a reservoir. I was nine years old and confident of my fishing ability until I saw the wiggly worm. Gross! Papa fixed my line and cast it from the shore. You guessed it. I caught the very first fish, a nine-pound catfish. Okay, I may be exaggerating. This is a fish story. I was nine. Nine is what I remember.
Papa whooped and clapped as he pulled the fat-cat from the line. I was beaming like a sunrise in summer. I loved this fish. It went without question; I would take it home and keep it as my pet.
Grandpa agreed. He filled a large pail and placed my “new pet” inside. Into the camper it went for the trip home. Mom protested our sudden acquisition of the wet pet. Papa was deaf to her complaints. He had a hearing problem, the selective type. We proceeded home with the bucket sloshing and spilling all over the camper floor. I was ear-to-ear teeth the entire ride.
Later that afternoon poor Whiskers died after my goofy brother dropped him on the patio. Whiskers went to catfish heaven (don’t try to convince me otherwise *grin*). My grandfather sensed my sadness over my lost pet and knew exactly what to do.
“Get ready for a fish funeral.” he smiled. “There won’t be a fish fry tonight!”
Calling the family together, he tenderly placed the stiff fish in a carrier he crafted out of an old coat hanger. Thus, the procession began. From tallest to smallest, we headed out behind the garage. I remember Mom following with her 16-millimeter home movie camera for posterity’s sake.
Gently, old Whiskers was laid to rest in a shallow earthen grave. I shed a tear.
As I remember this crazy catfish funeral, I smile. My grandfather’s compassion was a priceless gift to a small girl. I still carry it with me today.
Gifts of compassion we seldom forget.
Jesus took my prodigal years and redeemed them. Jesus said to me, “I love you” when I was alone and still defiant. Jesus walked faithfully beside me when I was a liar, even to myself. Jesus met me in the darkest pit and took the lash to save me. I still carry all of these gifts with me today.
Jesus. No one can take this gift away. No one can touch it. No one can change it. The compassion of Jesus will carry me home one day. Until then, I am compelled to share His compassion and love. I want to share Him with people in extravagant, impulsively, playful, and even outlandish ways. I want to love like a man who would bury a fish.
After the fish funeral while tucked in bed and fast asleep, the alley cats enjoyed a banquet. I was over the trauma by the next morning (you know kids)…..
All was right with the world.