One beautiful Fall day, as I peered over the railing of a small bridge, an interesting sight met my eyes — bright red fish with green heads– spawning salmon. By an inborn instinct, they were all heading the same way — upstream. If you have ever tried to literally swim upstream, you know how hard it is to fight against the current. These were mature salmon, who had developed their muscles by constant movement, and were now making the long journey back to the spot where they themselves were born. They fight their way up the stream, overcoming obstacles, and even jumping up waterfalls in order to lay their eggs in calmer water where they can be fertilized. Soon after, the adult salmon die, but the hatching eggs ensure that life goes on in the next generation.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:1 NLT)
As Christians, we also go against the current, swimming upstream in a world that goes downstream, and that just goes with the flow and does whatever it wants. We develop our spiritual muscles by fighting our way against the prevailing values of this world. As a result, we behave differently from how most people behave. We don’t go with the flow, taking the easy way through life, but struggle to develop characteristics of God’s eternal life, as we head toward our heavenly home.
Here is just one example of behaviour that goes against the world’s norm. One November, in the school where my husband and I both worked, we got to accompany the senior class to Montreal, Canada, on its annual mission trip. As one of our tasks we found ourselves raking huge quantities of maple leaves in a vast churchyard. After seeing the pictures on Facebook, one of our “friends” exclaimed in disbelief, “You went to Montreal to rake leaves!?” He didn’t get it. He didn’t realize that our role was one of servanthood. The point of our trip was not sight-seeing, or even the tidied-up lawn at the church, but an object lesson for the students, to teach them the value of encouraging others by serving them. The pastor exclaimed over and over again, how overwhelmingly we had blessed the congregation by our willingness to do this menial job for them.
“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (I John 3:16 NLT)
Serving others, a “swimming upstream” life style, is giving up our lives for others. The salmon gives up its life and dies, once its purpose is fulfilled by laying its eggs. We can give up our lives once we decide to live for the benefit of others, and not just living to “do our own thing”. We may not physically die, but we can die to our own self centred desires. We can die to our own inclinations to go with the flow, and live to serve others. Will you consider swimming upstream?
Red Deer, Alberta, Canada