NOTE: This article is a follow up to the article Deacons? What were the apostles thinking?
The Strange Fishing Dream occurred 10-15 years ago and with the help of friends, the understanding seemed clear. Not long after, I had another fishing dream, forgotten until the Lord brought it to mind today and helped me to see the meaning.
From the window of a vacant industrial building on a pier over the Puget Sound, I was fishing and hooked a big fish, the size of a cow. Somehow I managed to reel it in on a pole much too small for the job, lifted it out of the water, pulled it through the window and placed it on what looked like a boat cradle. I don’t remember that the fish weighed anything.
It was a funny looking fish, with a rounded boxy shape and unlike anything I’d ever seen come out of the Puget Sound. It was bloated looking, smooth skinned and had a pleasant but dumb looking expression on its face.
As is common with catching a large fish, I hit it over the head with a club to kill it and prevent it from flopping around and hurting someone.
The fish replied “What did you do that for” and with a loopy sounding laugh, began jabbering.
It’s been long enough since the dream that I don’t remember what the fish said exactly, though it was affable albeit disconnected from the reality of having been caught and me having just tried to kill it. What I remember is that it annoyed me, a lot. Stupid incoherent talking fish. I vaguely remember the fish saying I couldn’t kill it and I was amazed that the fish seemed unaffected by being out of the water.
So I found a much bigger club and hit the fish over the head again and again and again, with all my might, until it was dead, which ended the dream.
The dream differs from Strange Fishing Dream in three significant ways that confused me at the time and likely was the reason I forgot about it.
First, the Strange Fishing Dream was a fresh-water river and this dream was a salt-water sound. The river looked a like the Green (Duwamish) river I often fished in winter for steelhead. The salt-water sound looked like Puget Sound where I grew up.
Second, the fish I caught in the river was indigenous to the river, a steelhead, which is hatched in the river, migrates to the ocean, returns to the river to spawn and goes back to the ocean, repeating the cycle for as many seasons as it lives. The fish I caught in the sound was an inedible “trash fish” which feeds on the eggs of steelhead and and other game fish.
Third, I felt compassion for the steelhead caught from the river, but I despised the funny looking fish caught from the sound.
There is a “river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Revelation 22:1) about which the prophet wrote:
I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes.
(Ezekiel 47:7-9 ESV)
In this river, live all who are born of God. Some, like the steelhead in the Strange Fishing Dream, have sustained wounds from this world while at the same time deriving life and healing from the river of life.
The salt sea is like the nations, what the Greek refers to as the “ochlos” (G3793), the multitudes. The sea and everything in it, is unclean (Isaiah 57:20). The Lord casts our sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19) and He drowns in the depths of the sea all those who cause the children of God to stumble (Matthew 18:6). Metaphorically speaking, the sea is the place sin and sinners dwell.
Steelhead are birthed in the river, go to the sea and return to the river where new life is created. I felt a connection with the steelhead for it drew its life from the river of life, as do I. A steelhead’s migratory pattern brings to mind John 10:9, in the sense that believers are sent out into the world to bear witness to the gospel and make new disciples for Christ (Matthew 28).
I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. (John 10:9 ESV)
The strange fish that was birthed and lived in the sea was unclean and therefore repulsive to me. That the fish was neither indigenous to the river of life, nor the salt sea, I take it to mean it was a creation of man, such as a vain work, or a tradition of men. Since the fish draws its life from the labors of men who are native to the sea (ochlos), ecologists would consider it an “invasive species”. That would seem to explain why it was not affected by pulling it from the sea as the sea was not its source of life. Certainly in drawing its life from men it would be considered parasitic or predatory. That it was created by men explains the weight of it which was not commensurate with its size. Vain works and traditions have no weight per se except for the weight (importance) we assign to them. Traditions meant little to me in the dream, hence I hefted a fish as large as a cow by myself with a pole too small for the job. That the fish reminded me of a cow brings to mind the term “sacred cow”, which is often used to describe people’s devotion to tradition.
I viewed the fish in the same way I would a a sucker fish, carp or dogfish. Each of these eat the eggs of valuable game fish, like steelhead. It is common practice when a fisherman catches a “trash fish”, to kill it for the protection and preservation of game fish, hence clubbing the fish over the head until dead.
Putting an end to tradition and vain works is exceedingly difficult. Perhaps some of them are even codified in scripture**. Often they start small, grow and morph beyond their original ‘good’ intentions and then turn on the men who created them in the first place, robbing them of spirit-life, all the while presenting the feel-good happy-face of tradition and ‘good works’. This tendency to grow and morph would explain the strange appearance of the fish and its affable but goofy personification and the extreme difficulty killing it.
There is another very unsettling feature of the fish, not previously mentioned. It reminded me a bit of me. At least, that dull-minded, blind, deaf and un-regenerate me that once loved all things religious and churchy as if they were the way of life. In clubbing the fish over the head repeatedly until it was dead, there is a sense in which I was rendering judgment on my own flawed human understanding. I was, as far as I was concerned in the dream, only putting to death a lump of ignorant flesh, in which there was no real life.
** Understanding this old, long forgotten dream, came with completing the article series Martha, Martha, Martha! and Deacons? What were the apostles thinking? I’m convinced that deacons, a position created by the apostles so they could get back to serving the bread of life, was to appease the demands of the people for bread that perishes. Certainly the position of “deacon” is contradictory to other passages in scripture wherein the apostles write that every believer must work to eat (2 Thes. 3:10), bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2), practice hospitality (1 Pet. 4:9), love in action (1 John 3:18), etc.
Where every believer is already a priest in Christ Jesus (1 Pet. 2:5 & 9, Rev. 1:6), what need is there for the special servant class “deacon”? There is nothing a “deacon” does that shouldn’t be standard practice for every believer!
So what do you suppose would be the response to suggesting that the position of “deacon” be eliminated? A position that has enabled the majority of the body to eat without working? A position that if eliminated would force the body to grow, serve and mature?
I guess some fish are just difficult to kill, even for apostles.
NOTE: There are 3 articles in this series: