We felt our way onto the creaky boat as our eyes desperately adjusted to the inky blackness of night. Easing quietly onto the wooden slats that would be our bench for the next hour, I could only imagine the mountainous shoreline I’d seen earlier in the day. As the bank of the Li River was quickly swallowed by darkness, we wondered if our sight-seeing trip would offer any views at all.
The sputtering motor headed toward a pinpoint of light. As we neared the glow, we could make out a flat bamboo raft with a singular bearded captain. Wearing a conical Asian hat, this Chinese fisherman bore a long bamboo pole across his back. Perched along this pole were several of the birds we’d come to see.
Our boat turned off his motor and we sat quietly as the cormorant began their work. With clipped wings, the cormorant could not fly, but seemed very eager to fish. On their own and sometimes prompted by the end of the bamboo pole, they drove again and again into the ebony waters of the Li.
More often than not, one of the birds would resurface onto the raft with a rather large fish in his mouth. With expert quickness, the fisherman separated the fish from the bird and encouraged the cormorant into the water yet again.
Straining my eyes against the blackness, I could vaguely make out why the cormorant fished but did not swallow. A thin metal collar constricting the bird’s neck allowed only smaller fish to slip down his throat. Anything larger (and of real value) was claimed by the fisherman.
As I went to bed that night, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the birds. Although fed scraps by their owners, they seemed to be missing a life of freedom and fullness.
Yet, are we not the same?
With the self-adorned collar of worries, are we not choking ourselves from fully receiving the Spirit (1 John 3:15-16)?
We want to feast on God, but do we go to the feast choked with comfort?
After all, it is the “worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things…. (that) choke the Word (causing it to) become unfruitful.” (Mark 4:19).
As we pray for hearts of others to receive Truth, maybe we should first stop and see what ring is constricting our own. Then we can pray for the constraint in the lives of our friends.
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