Madly Entrapped Madtoms

One of the benefits of growing up as country boy is the freedom to explore. As a youngster, my cousins and I spent many days roaming the hills and valleys near my home discovering hidden streams, gigantic trees, and spectacular views. It’s difficult to believe that our parents gave us that much freedom or that neighboring landowners didn’t chase us off with shotguns, but we had the time of our lives on each new adventure.

On one of these jaunts, my cousin Bruce and I came across a small spring-fed creek from which we probably drank. Turning over rocks, we caught several crayfish and marveled at the water striders skating swiftly across the tops of the pools.

As we meandered along the meandering stream, we came across a small grey galvanized pail. It had holes in the top and when we opened it, we discovered several baby catfish. Although the exact details escape me now, there must have been 10-20 of these lively little critters swimming around their metal prison.

For the life of us, we couldn’t figure out why someone would keep these things penned up and eventually decided the only humane thing to do was to release them, which we did. Delighted by their newfound freedom, they happily darted under rocks to safe hideaways.

We continued to comb the woods on our return home where we recounted our heroic deed. That was when we learned what we had done. Those “baby catfish” were actually madtoms that some fisherman had either caught or purchased to use as bass bait. Boy, were we stunned. We could only imagine the disappointment of that individual when he or she stopped on the way to the river only to find their empty bait bucket.

As I reflect on this Sunday afternoon in the woods, I’m reminded of Psalm 124:7 where the author describes what freedom feels like. He writes, “We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped.” You can hear the elation as he pronounces his newfound liberty and deliverance from certain death.

Although I regret the disappointment we caused the fisherman, this experience reminds me of so many people today. They have unknowingly swam into the Devil’s fishnet and been trapped. Perhaps they were lured by bait of temporary happiness, fame, or wealth only to realize too late their inability to escape.

Sadly, many are madly swimming around in his bait bucket confined by their guilt, fears, worries, and hatred. They have no way of escape and realize the hopelessness of their situation. Life has become a prison and they are entrapped by habits and lifestyles they now regret but can find no release from.

Then one day, along comes not an ignorant young explorer, but a loving Savior. In mercy and grace He stoops to loosen the lid and free all the occupants by slicing His wrist on the latch and bleeding to death releasing them all. Imagine how foolish it would be for those madtoms to stay in the perceived “safety” of the bucket and not swim to freedom.

Tragically, many today fail to receive the deliverance Jesus died to arrange. Deceived by their own sin or too attached to their chosen lifestyles of captivity, they fail to accept the liberty that Jesus freely provides.

Godless lives in this world are but a holding cell for the destruction that awaits those who resist the forgiveness, freedom and new life that Jesus offers. The Devil will eventually return to carry the bucket of unsuspecting souls to their eternal doom and the opportunity of release will have passed.

If you are swimming around in the Devil’s bait bucket, receive the liberation that Jesus died to give you and begin enjoying the freedom the Psalmist describes. You’ll be glad you did! Blessings, George