Running the Gauntlet
by John Merritt
September 15th, 2016

If you think your life is tough, consider the life of a salmon. Starting as an egg released by its dying mother, it becomes the primary diet of rainbow trout that gorge themselves on salmon eggs in order to fatten up before winter sets in. The eggs that do survive and are lucky enough to become fertilized by a male salmon—hatch. They are now salmon “fry” or baby-sized minnows. The fry are tasty little morsels for all kinds of predators such as other fish and birds of every description.

Those that make it down river and into the ocean face a much larger mob of fish-eating creatures—sea lions, sharks, whales and deep-diving sea birds to name a few. To add to their travails is the availability of food which varies greatly from year to year. Sometimes the krill or herring or sardines or anchovies are few and far between causing salmon to become weak and vulnerable.

Those that are able to beat the odds and become mature fish at three or four years old have another formidable challenge. They have to make it back up river to spawn and continue the cycle of life all over again. When I’m fishing for these returning salmon, I sometimes feel sorry for catching one to take home to feed my family because they have endured so much already.

The mouth of the river they intend to swim up is fraught with risk. There are sea lions waiting and commercial fishermen with their engulfing nets. If they manage to escape the nets and make it to the river there are bears with big jaws and paws. There are Native Americans with more nets to entrap them. And there are sport fishermen like myself with hooks and lures in the water designed to catch them. Salmon literally run the gauntlet and a mere fraction that begin as eggs make it back as reproducing adults.

I admire the tenacity and never-say-die (though that is what they return to the river to do) of this amazing creature. Whenever I face difficulty I often think of the salmon and my problems don’t seem so large. And I remember the words of Jesus who said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b) Thank God he has!

For Reflection: What creature impresses you most when it comes to its tenacity and ability to endure hardship? What adversity might you be up against right now that would best be taken on with Jesus as your Overcomer?

This first appeared here and is shared with permission.

John Merritt is a modern-day adventurer trapped in a pastor’s body. When not behind a pulpit you will find John lobster diving, heli-skiing, hauling in yellow fin tuna, calling mallards from a duck blind, or running Grand Canyon whitewater. John is married to Debbie for 40 years and has three children and five grandchildren. 

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