Don't Kick the Catfish: Thoughts on the 23rd Psalm
“No creature will lose itself sooner than a sheep, so apt is it to go astray, and then so unapt to find the way back.” -from Matthew Henry’s Commentary
I don’t know much about sheep, but I was once a stupid teenager. Sheep and teenage boys: from what I hear, the two are basically one in the same.
When I was fifteen, we took our annual trip to the beach. There I was, in stupid teenager Heaven, taking in the sights, when I walked up on a dead catfish. In all the years we spent camping at the beach, I’d caught my fair share of sea cats. The little devils are basically worthless, but they put up a heck of a fight from the piers at Panama City and Gulf Shores.
I stood over the carcass of this dead fish, as it swelled in the sun.
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it.
I was barefoot and bored, so I did the next logical thing for a stupid teenager. I picked up my foot, drew my leg back, and kicked that fish back into the ocean.
What the hell was I thinking? Dead or not, that catfish had some sharp fins that sliced into the sole of my foot. It hurt. Bad.
Told ya. Stupid teenager.
When you are cut by something like a dirty, rotting fish, you cannot just slap a band-aid on it and trust that everything’s gonna be alright. You have to go down into the wound, clean it out, remove the sand and infection, and allow it to heal from the inside out. It is a deep wound from a source full of bacteria, and deep wounds require special attention.
I love the image of shepherds so much. Imagine the sheep, with a leg caught in a crevice along some rugged mountain trail. The sheep got stuck because of stubbornness or curiosity, but the faithful shepherd comes along, picks them up, throws them over his strong shoulders, and carries the wounded lamb to safety.
Out of harm’s way, the shepherd would treat the wounds with oil, clean out the dirt and infection, bandage them up and keep a watchful eye over the wounded lamb.
The Good Shepherd comforts, protects, and provides for me. The Good Shepherd never leaves me.
Do you have a relationship or issue in your life that cuts deeper than a catfish fin? I do. One particular person has wounded me deeply through the years. And that kind of pain isn’t easily healed or forgotten, no matter how much grace we manage to find. Relationships are difficult. People are difficult.
It’s rare for me to insert a whole chapter of the Bible, but look at the way Eugene Peterson translates Psalm 23 in The Message:
God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction.
Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure.
You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing.
Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.
In this particular instance, I was like the stubborn sheep. Instead of asking the Shepherd to care for my wounds, I buried the pain for years. I ignored the warning signs and hoped for the best.
But deep wounds must be cleaned, or they will get infected. You can't continue to kick the stupid catfish and expected to not be wounded.
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