Fear is pulsating through our body.
We look up into the fading light from above. We are sinking fast and unable to breathe. Our chest burns as the light slowly fades into darkness. We look down at the compass in our hand with the last glimmer of light.
It is all we have left. We want to hold on, but something is telling us to let it go. But... we couldn’t. We couldn’t lose it again! We HAVE to hold on. As we descend deeper into the abyss, we recall the moment when this whole journey began.
Trees surrounded us. We looked down to see something shiny hanging from our neck. Staring at the spinning arrow inside the object, we wondered. What was this?
Quickly distracted, we noticed a rope lying on the ground. We grabbed and followed it until it led us to a large expanse of sand. Beyond the dunes of sand, we saw a large body of water.
We stared at it, and it drew us in. It was as if it was calling our name. We immediately dropped the rope and began moving toward the water. And then we noticed, the spinning arrow stabilized towards the horizon. We’re going in the right direction, we thought.
Knee-deep in the waves, we stared into the mesmerizing ocean as we were pulled deeper by the call. Wading in until the water was up to our neck, we lost our balance and fell. The current pulled us away from the land and deeper into the ocean. Panicked, gasping for air and certain we’d die, we yelled for help. Something heard our cry and we felt it swim under us pushing our head above water.
We could breathe!
We gasped for air and this creature lets us know he was there to help. He knew how hard it was to survive in these waters, and whenever he sensed new blood, he sought it out. He had mastered survival. We immediately thought he could help us do the same. He proceeded to introduce himself as the shark and told us he would take us to a place where surviving was much easier. It’s a place where the food comes to us instead of us having to go find it.
He noticed us staring at the shiny object around our neck and asked us if we knew what it was. No, it was just always there, we told him.
It’s a compass, he said. He continued sharing. It won’t do us any good surviving out here, but he enjoyed collecting them. If we’d like to go to the place of plenty, we only need to give him our compass in exchange. Thinking it did us no good, we thought it a fair deal and agreed.
As we arrived at the area of plenty, we noticed small frenzied creatures in the water and our friend quickly disappeared. Seeing the creatures scurry away, we panicked thinking something was terribly wrong. Scrambling to swim back to shore we were pulled back out into the riptide. It was happening all over again but we didn’t know where our friend was.
Tumbling in the water, we saw dark shapes in the ocean surrounding us. We felt a sharp pain in our leg and we saw blood in the water. Confused and afraid, fear quickly consumed us.
Then, we saw one of them clearly. It was our friend, the shark. He looked at us with eyes glazed over. Something was wrong. The other sharks moved our way, and we were now caught in the middle of a feeding frenzy!
In the midst of the chaos, our bleeding and now unconscious body was swept out of the water and up onto the beach.
We woke up dazed and hazy about what just happened, but we were grateful to be alive. We would definitely stay clear of the shark should we meet him again. We did not want to experience that pain and panic. We looked over next to us and noticed a net. It must have been used to pull us out of the water and onto the beach. But, pulled out by who? Who else is out there? We picked it up and made our way towards a rock overhanging the waters below to sit and think.
We felt lost and alone.
We looked down at the net and an idea came to us. This net could help us collect things to build a raft and get off the island!
Just then, a colorful fish swam up to us. She was seeking a friend to explore the amazing and colorful reef. A reef? What is that? She said It would be fun, and it definitely beat staying here alone. We looked down on the net and thought, we could build that later. So, we agreed to go.
We went with the clownfish and found the reef was blissful. The bright colors, the varied creatures, and the movement of the reef were hypnotizing. We explored the reef and she introduced us to other creatures. And it was amazing. Each new discovery kept us happily entertained, helping us forget about our past suffering. But, something didn’t feel right. We decided to discuss it with the clownfish, but we couldn't find her. She disappeared.
We frantically looked around until we saw her, but when we did, she was with someone else. Each time we approached, she was unwilling to talk and would swim away. Our heart broke, and we swam off to avoid the pain and loneliness of seeing her. We wanted out of this... this reef, but we were stuck. We stopped swimming and drifted over the reef, our mind faded away. Slowly, we felt ourself pulled back toward the island as we drifted to sleep.
As we came to, we realized we had been in the reef for over a year! Regret filled our body as we realized how much time we had wasted. We doubted our enjoyment of the experience, and we vowed to never live in that dream world again. Preyed on and now lonely, we wanted to abandon this island. Anywhere but here, we thought. We noticed next to us a long pole connected to the net we saw earlier. This must have been what pulled us out of the reef. Who keeps doing this?
We were quickly distracted as we thought about how the net and pole could be useful for the raft we wanted to build. They could be the very things we needed to get off this island. This new pole would help us get the things we needed to survive, and stay clear from the shark and clownfish at the same time. Sensing we were behind, because of the time we had lost in the reef, we rapidly began building our raft. While hammering away, we noticed a creature in the distance coming to and leaving the island freely. Building this raft is a lot of work, but hitching a ride with him would be way faster.
We called out to the creature for a ride. He looked at our pole and net. You could be helpful, he said to us. Let’s go. As we went to get on the back of the turtle, we noticed he collected shiny objects, and one of them was a compass, the thing we had started out with. We told him about giving away our compass, and we found out he had an entire cave of them. If we helped him, he’d let us forage his collection to see if we could find ours. Enthusiastically, we hopped on to help the experienced turtle.
It was great, and we learned all about the ocean, the reef, and other creatures. With a newfound sense of purpose, we used our experience and tools to collect all kinds of shiny objects for this turtle. We were finally feeling content and fulfilled.
The time came when we actually arrived at the turtle’s caves. It was the furthest out from the Island we had ever been. We unloaded the shiny objects we helped gather, into the fortune filled caves. The turtle then gave us reign to search out his collection for our compass. With so much to sort through, days went by as we rummaged through all the shiny objects looking for our compass. In pursuit of our own object, we noticed some other neat things and we stuck them in our pockets. And then we found it, buried and beaten. But it was ours. The compass. We are never losing you again, we thought to ourself as we stared at it.
Excited, we went to tell the turtle we were ready to leave, but he was gone. Stuck in the caves with no easy way back to the island, we panicked. We were too far out and we needed help to get back to land. Scared that we were stuck in the caves permanently, we looked around frantically until a glimmer of light shone down from the surface. Something was coming down from up top extending a hand our way. We reached out and grabbed a hold as we were pulled up and back to the beach in a frenzy of activity.
Dazed and now feeling abandoned by the Turtle, we realized the only way we were getting off this island was if we fully committed to making this raft. No more distractions. We no longer could rely on others like the turtle, the clownfish or the shark because we only found ourselves hurt and back where we started each time. We were getting off this island. With discipline and focus, our hard work would finally take us away from here. We looked over next to us on the sand and saw a round donut shaped object. It floated. This could be useful and we threw it into the boat along with the other shiny objects we collected.
Finally finished with our project, we launched the raft off into the water beginning our journey away from the island. We went out over the riptide, across the reef, beyond the caves to the edge of what appeared to be a deep dark abyss. As we traveled we used our long pole to grab things from the water below filling up our boat with all kinds of neat and shiny objects. Wow, not only were we going to get off this island, we were going to take a fortune with us. As we got to the edge of the abyss, we noticed the compass pointed beyond it. We looked out concerned about going over it. Across the now cloudy horizon, we saw no land. Just an infinite amount of water. What if this is it? What if there is nothing else out there?
As we doubted our mission to get off the island we felt a bump as the boat lurched forward. We had filled it up so much, it knocked some of our stuff into the water. We scrambled to grab it, but it was gone. And then a creature swam up to us from the water below holding our shiny objects. It was a swordfish and she was here to help. After we thanked her for saving our stuff, we told her we were leaving the island and wanted to go somewhere else. She encouraged us to keep going and that there was a wonderful paradise, called the mainland if we just kept going. Also, she’d help us fill the boat with all kinds of neat things if we let her tag along. The place our compass was pointing to was just a little further, so maybe she was right. If we kept going, we’d get there soon, we thought.
Considering we couldn’t see the entire horizon, because of the clouds, we followed her lead and continued the journey. But, the further we got out, the more chaotic the waves became. The bigger they became, the louder the swordfish yelled at us to keep going. Bam! The boat groaned and our stuff shifted. We quickly grabbed our net to secure all of our things so they wouldn’t fall out. The swordfish popped up out of the water and we told her we just got hit by something. She said she’d look to see what it was and swam back down. Crack! The boat tilted and lurched as something smacked it again. The swordfish popped up and said she couldn’t figure out what was hitting the boat.
Let’s just keep moving. Just a little more and we’ll soon be there, she claimed. We wondered how much more we had to go before we arrived. If we didn’t get there quickly, we wouldn't make it before the raft fell apart. We'd lose everything we worked so hard for! And then we thought about the flotation device. We could throw it around the swordfish and she could pull us towards the mainland. Swordfish! Grab the floater and pull us. If you share your treasure, I’ll help pull you she yells. We felt like we had no choice, so we agreed. She grabbed the floater connected to the raft by a rope and began pulling us full speed ahead.
We looked up and saw the clouds had rolled in and the waves were larger than we had ever encountered. Looking down at our compass the needle was now spinning fast in all directions. Something was really wrong. Our boat was not made to handle all of this and it creaked and groaned under the pressure of the pulling, and the waves and winds. And then, we heard it. A large crack. The swordfish pulled too hard and she ripped off the front of the raft. Crash! A rogue wave hit the remaining part of the raft splitting it and the water filled up the boat. We were sinking and so far out, there was no way we were getting back to the island. The swordfish yelled at us to grab what we could because we were going down.
The boat submerged underwater as all of our stuff fell towards the ocean floor. We held on tight to our compass with one hand and as many things as we could with the other. As we descended, we stared into the dark abyss below. While something was telling us to let go, we wanted to hold on.
Looking down, we felt in a way that we deserved to be in that abyss. In a strange way, it seemed like our home.
Frightened, we let everything we were holding on to go, except we could not let go of our compass. Our descent slowed, but we were still sinking. We looked at our compass. It was all that we had left. Let it go, we heard. It couldn’t save us.
Time seemed to stop as we descended into the dark abyss. Our life flashed before our eyes.
The epiphany hits us, and we realize following the direction of the compass is what got us here. We have to let it go! Consumed in fear, the swordfish notices our change in intent and begins to intimidate us as she circles around.
We look up, down and at the compass. It’s time to let it go.
We let the compass go, and at once, we stop sinking and begin rising towards the surface. The swordfish grabs our compass and swims upwards urging us to take it back, but she’s bogged down by the attached floater still connected to the sinking wreckage. She swims upwards as hard as she can threatening us to take it or else all will be lost.
The swordfish struggles to keep up with our ascent and finally runs out of energy as she is quickly pulled down into the abyss below. We stare down watching the swordfish and what was most important to us fade into the ocean darkness.
We burst out of the water and quickly look around for the island. We can’t find it and a sense of panic overwhelms us. Surveying frantically, we realize we’re alone, and in the middle of the ocean. Moments pass, in what seems like eons, until all a sudden we’re lifted out of the water into a boat. We look over. It’s a fisherman! He looks at us and smiles.
It’s time to go home.
Home? We’re confused and skeptical. But, there was something different about Him. We were at peace in his presence.
Laying on the boat floor, we peer over at a metal bucket thinking it contains fresh water, and we’re startled as we see a swordfish. And then we realize, it’s our reflection on the side of the bucket. We are the swordfish! And then the turtle, the clownfish and shark fade from one to the next. We are all of them!
As this revelation permeates our soul, the fisherman hands us the compass we lost in the abyss. The scratches and damage are gone and it’s as if it was recreated. The needle is now pointing somewhere specific. As we look up at the Fisherman, he lets us know it’s pointing us back towards the island, to our home. He nods towards the boat as we look around. This too is our boat, but fully restored! How? Why?
Emotions overtake us as our eyes well up in tears. We thought we lost it all, but it’s all back and better! And then He directs our gaze inside the bucket on the boat’s floor. Inside, we see it’s full of different stories of our journey inside numerous translucent worms. We’ll use these to help others, He indicates.
Sailing back towards the island, we tilt our head up from staring at our compass and we see others. They’re on the beach, in the riptide, in the reef, stuck in the caves, and falling into the abyss. Our past pain, loneliness, suffering, and fear overwhelm us as we watch. Completely overtaken by emotion, we immediately want to jump back in the water and help them. They don’t know what they’re doing or where they're going. We have to help them!
The Fisherman stops us and points to the bucket again. As we look at the worms with our stories, we now see the fisherman in them. He was there in our story all along, but we didn’t notice! This was all part of His story!
As we look back up across the water's horizon, we see the Fisherman appear, in all those other’s lives. He’s is rescuing the wounded out of the riptide. He’s pulling the lonely from the reef. He’s rescuing the abandoned from the caves. He’s tugging at the obsessed to let go. He’s got this! The Fisherman is teaching us how He loves and helps others, even when they’re in peril. His example is inspiring and we start to wonder if we could play a role in this larger story.
Our boat lands back at the island sandy bars we fondly remember from the start of our journey. Now standing on the shore, the Fisherman extends his hand and asks us…
Will you follow and join me? We’ll create safe places for those on the island. We’ll go after others fleeing the island as I have done so for you.
And we think to ourselves, what will we choose?
What will we do?
What Will YOU Do?
A Redemptive Parable Of Our Journey Home
“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.
If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.
And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” - Jesus