There it lies, silver flat and belly up.
The fish (what kind? I should have paid more attention in biology), thrown up by the tide, gathers flies on the sand not far from where I sit baking in the Mississippi sun.
Before I’ve finished a page in my book, a fight breaks out. A seagull, having claimed the fish as ‘his’ in the tacit pecking order of animalia, is upset, offended because another bird is closing in on his lunch.
“But, but, but,” he cries. “But, but, but.”
Bird Number Two makes a second attempt and is squawked away. Properly chastened, he backs off, tiny bird steps pitter patter four, five feet away. But now Bird Number Three swoops in. What, he seems to be asking, a nice rotten fish and no one invited me? How rude.
My bird won’t have any of it. Pit pit patters around his fish. “But, but, but,” he chatters. “But, but, but.”
Back. Away. From. My. Stinking. Fish.
Stinking it is. Wind carries it and I consider moving east, but the drama keeps me put. Who will win, get the fish? I must know.
At long last they give up. My bird isn’t budging. It’s his fish and that’s final. The others shrug their avarian shoulders and move on, look for other goodies and mine pecks at his prize, digging deep into its decomposing eyeball. Yum, yum.
How bad we covet the rot. How hungrily we gobble it up.
An ocean of fresh, firm, food lies just feet away. Supreme deliciousness ignored, we reach for the rot, push others into the path of cars to get at it, pout and stomp when our territory is infringed, yell, “But, but, but.”
But, but, but…this is mine! What if nothing better comes along? What if I starve?
Grab, clasp with claws or beak or whatever you got…but, but, but.
Food–rotten, yes–but something that looks like food. Mine, move away! Flesh decaying, but it’s all I have, don’t you see? Acceptance by those who would have me hell bound by morning if my presence in their life stopped justifying their unhealthy choices. Ghost grace. Clown love with a pasty freak face painted on. Fraudulent, all of it, but, but, but what if nothing better comes along?
But, but, but.
Never mind the trillions of gallons of saltwater that house the True Thing just feet away. Where it swims and feeds and has its being. Vibrant and shimmering just feet away. Give me my rot, let me gouge out its eyeball and nibble it like a delicacy, a priceless caviar at $100 per ounce.
Yet I am content with it, this rot. With aspartame love, mindless prayers, control-based ‘peace.’ With old perceptions of ghost god, far away god, aloof god, mean god, intimidating god, stingy god, wanting to see me suffer god, boring god, out to get me god, preconceived god, can never please god, bludgeoning god. I bat off Birds Two and Three to hold onto this it, in fact. Aim my beak toward soft flesh.But, but, but.
Ironic, when one yard away swims the Living, the Breathing, the Life…the very thing my rot does not possess. And I not only ignore it, but long for the Anti-It. The death. I defend my rights to the rot, claim its succulent gelatinous-but-moving-toward-dust eyeball as my own. Yum, yum.
Lick my lips with the rot. Because fear has long whispered, Surely there is nothing good in that sea for you. My grasping confirms that I believe in a culture of want, of desperation, of scarcity because, as my distorted childhood schema convinced me, there was never enough good. Not enough mom. Not enough dad. Not enough money. Not enough security. Not enough gas in the car. A lifetime of worry, panic, poverty leads to hoarding, even of the rot.
Turn, Mr. Seagull, and cast your piercing eyes upon the waters. Who is saying this? My lips are still, but I hear.
Those waters that teem with life. I watch for mere seconds and see fish after fish jump and belly flop. Schools of tiny baby fish (fishlets?) skim my freshly painted red toes. Districts of schools of fish. Countries of fish. A universe of fish. I have to wait but moments before another wiggles past. Fish that will grow and jump and give their their sustenance to hungry people like me. Real fish, not imitation Krab. Real food, not Poptarts and Pizza Rolls. Vitamins and minerals and omega-threes for healthy bones, hair, hearts.
Don’t you see? I want to toggle into bird-ese for just a moment and tell him what I see. There’s so much more than the rot, but I hardly blame him, having held tight to rot as long as I have.
When Life has always been there, just feet away.
The Life, the Lifegiver, the Living Water and Filling Bread, wooing God, joy-infusing God, hiding you under His wings God, seating you at His banqueting table God, come crawl up in my lap and let me love you God, watching out for you God, with you always God, leaving the 99 to find the one God, counting the hairs on your head God. If only you’d relax your vigilant hold on the rot. If only you’d quit your rights to your rights. Your expectations of who God is and is allowed to be. Your demands that He perform to your liking and on your schedule, of your expectations of what is ‘good,’ of in-stone images of what life should be and SEE. If only you’d let go of the rot and soar high.
If only I would.
Life. Love. Goodness. Food...Him. You’d then see it, Mr. Seagull. Dive low and scoop it up. It’s there for the taking and there’s enough for us all, enough to be filled to the gills…no buts about it.
What losses have you experienced in your life? Have you lost everything? Friend, I wish you would read this…
p.s. Forgive that last pun. I couldn’t help myself.