Videos of salmon swimming upstream to spawn or reproduce have always intrigued me. I’ve never witnessed this phenomenon firsthand, but the images of these fish going against the current, sometimes leaping into the air along their journey, are captivating. Here are animals intentionally going against the flow, driven by natural instinct. They’re following a familiar scent that leads back to where they were born.
Humans sometimes go against the flow too, but it’s not an instinctive response and has nothing to do with our places of birth. This might be motivated by a desire to be non-conformists.
We saw a lot of that in the 1960s, when hippies took a stand for non-conformity with their long hair, flowers, tie-dye shirts and bell-bottomed trousers. Ironically, their non-conformity became conformity to the established hippie culture.
Countering the culture is a genuine reason for swimming upstream or going against the flow. A great verse in the Bible is Roman 12:2, which says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” One paraphrase from years ago put it this way: “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.”
This always has been, and probably always will be, a challenge for the people of God. The Scriptures provide us with many examples, but one in particular comes to mind.
First, let me ask a question: How many of the Israelite “spies,” sent into the Promised Land to check things out, can you name? I suspect at most you can name only two: Joshua and Caleb. Have you ever heard of Shammua, Shaphat, Igal, Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nahbi, or Geuel? Probably not.
There’s a good reason for this, and it’s not just because they had unusual names. All of these men are listed in Numbers 13:3-15, and it says each was a leader, so they apparently had some notable qualities. But among them, only two – Joshua and Caleb – were willing to go against the current. After exploring the lush and beautiful land God had promised them, the other 10 returned and said, “the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large…. We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are” (Numbers 13:28-29,31).
The givers of the first “minority report,” Joshua and Caleb, insisted, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it” (Numbers 13:30), but the majority’s appraisal was adopted. As a result, the Israelites were consigned to wander in the wilderness for 40 years; the only ones from the spy expedition who actually found homes in the Promised Land were – Joshua and Caleb.
We could cite many other examples: Joseph, Daniel, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah and others in the Old Testament. Most of Jesus' original disciples, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, Stephen, Paul and others in the New.
If you catch any of the episodes of the unique video series, “The Chosen” – which I highly recommend – you’ll notice an animated “logo” of a school of fish swimming in one direction, and then one by one, individual fish reversing course and starting to go the other way. This imagery represents Jesus’ calling of His followers and how they, like salmon swimming against the current, bravely chose to follow Him rather than their traditions and the prevailing culture.
Even though some of His disciples came from fishing backgrounds, Jesus used another metaphor to represent the difficult and sacrificial route they would have to take. He said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
Today, not much has changed. Our nation, once anchored in a Judeo-Christian culture, now seems bent on taking a totally different course, one that in many ways contradicts and even rebels against the time-honored, time-tested teachings of the Bible. Which brings – or will bring – each of us to an important point of decision.
Will we, like the determined salmon, undertake the hard work of going against the current? Or will we “go with the flow,” the path of least resistance, because it seems easier that way? There’s a “wide gate and narrow road” that most folks seem eager to take. The “small gate and narrow road” Jesus talked about, however, is the only one that lead to life – the “abundant life” He promised in John 10:10.
We each need to ask the honest and tough question, “Which way am I going?” And even if we’re presently following the path Jesus suggested, are we determined to stay on it – no matter what?
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Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is email@example.com.