Watching salmon leap up the spillway at the North Fork of the Klondike River was a lot like watching fireworks. Although we expected each explosion, we still let out an exclamation of appreciation. The salmon would erupt, flashing, gleaming with pure energy, huge orange and red bodies bursting out of the water. The dam was alive with them, the swift water no match for their instinctual race to spawn.
We always exclaimed as each one appeared, cheering them on, because we wanted them to win, to fling their bodies high and hard enough to escape the incessant pull of that water. We knew somehow they would do it and the cycle of life would continue, though many would die in the process. At the time I did not attribute any kind of philosophical meaning to our cheers, passionate as they were. I just knew we wanted the fish to win.
Later, however, I wondered why. Why were we so passionate about those slimy, bug-eyed creatures who could neither change their course nor articulate the reasons for their mad dash up that falls? Perhaps it was a sense of their fight being part of ours, their conquest of those unreasonable odds, somehow tied to our battle to do the same. We, too, are driven forward by unseen forces. The drive to succeed, the drive to create, to surround ourselves with love, beauty, peace and order, the drive to articulate all of the above, all of these lie deep in our being.
At the core of the salmon’s fight upriver is the instinct for survival. At the core of our need for those things which captivate us, is the need to know our creator. We fight toward peace, order, beauty, love and yes, even success in our lives, because these are part of the character of God. And, at our core, we know we need Him. We need Him as desperately as those salmon need to spawn. And as writers, we need to proclaim Him.
Somewhere along the way, however, we confuse that need with the object of the race. We substitute the love, order, success, for the One who ordained that they exist. And we die a slow spiritual death. Just as surely as those salmon die on their journey, their very flesh disintegrating, so we will die, if we never connect with the source of our longings. Though we are driven to satisfy them, the yearnings of our hearts can never be satiated apart from knowing God. Psalm 63:1 says, “O God… my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
It is through a relationship with the creator, who draws us through those yearnings, that we understand them and truly understand ourselves. Psalm 63 continues -“My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.” (v.5)
Are you wearing yourself out, like a salmon in a waterfall, trying to satisfy the longings of your heart, striving for success instead of resting in Christ? Turn to the One whose essence is love, peace, order and beauty. You will be satisfied.