America's Most Critical Journal (since 1999)
Jesus and the Sea Star
30 May 2016
The old man watched as the young boy picked up another starfish and hurled it back into the tides. He marveled at how many starfish littered the sand.
Calling to the boy, he said, “There are thousands of starfish here! You can’t possibly help them all.”
The boy smiled and picked up another starfish. “It will make a difference to this one.”
And he threw the starfish toward the water, but it never made it. Instead, the starfish hit Jesus, who happened to be walking along the seaside that day.
In fact, Jesus was carrying you, which is why you only see one set of footprints in the sand for that section of your life.
I’m sure you also remember the next portion of existence. You must.
You see, that flying starfish, sea creature qua projectile weapon, clocked Jesus and made him drop you.
For a while there was only one set of footprints in the sand because you were walking on your own.
Jesus had taken a bit of a spill and needed a few moments to wipe the motes of sand from his eye. He can’t judge properly when the motes obscure His vision.
You must recall how tough those times were. While you were walking alone on the shore, metaphorically of course, that’s when your mother died. It was terrifically upsetting, and the time you’d had to prepare—cancer is no thief in the night—felt inadequate.
Your mother had been integral to your sense of self, especially as a child because your father was always a distant man, and after her death you drank more than you should have.
At first it was understandable, a way to dull the pain, but then it got out of hand. Seriously out of hand. Not just wine through the evening, as a kind of sanctified dusk, but whiskey before breakfast or as breakfast.
So, while Jesus was straightening His robes your wife left you.
Jesus picked you up after a while, happy to carry you once more. As He did, you noticed how many starfish were on the beach, and a small child assiduously picking them and tossing them into the sea.
You wanted to tell the boy that, as invertebrates sea stars can never carry anyone, that injured sea stars go through a repair phase of months or years which allows them to regenerate—triggering growth—and that the tide would soon return.
That maybe the kid could do more to help carry people limping across the sand instead of casually winging starfish with no thought given to Whom it might strike down.
Matt Kolbet teaches and writes near Portland, Oregon. Recently, his work has appeared in Inklette, Inwood Indiana, and 3 Elements Review. His second novel, Lunar Year, will be out in Autumn, 2016.