Monday, March 27, 2006

beating the beast

Mac Weakley’s alarm clock went off at 3:00 a.m. this past Tues., Mar. 21. That set the gears in motion for him and two of his buddies, Mike Winn and Jed Dickerson, to get on the water at Lake Dixon in southern California just after 6:00 a.m.

See, Mac and two of his buddies had spotted a truly monster-size bass spawning up in the shallows of Lake Dixon the day before and they were determined to catch it. In fact, it was so big they gave it a nickname – The Beast. Now to cut to the chase, suffice it to say that after about twenty casts to The Beast Tuesday morning, the fish nailed Mac’s lure and he managed to wrestle it in and land it! After the hard fight, Mac said his arms were “like Jello” so he had one of his buddies, Mike Winn, hold up the fish for a picture or two.

Now just exactly how much did The Beast weigh? Twenty five pounds and one ounce! And as any basser worth his salt can tell you, that’s nearly three pounds over the current world record that has stood since George Perry winched a 22 lb., 4oz. beast of his own 74 years ago back in 1932!

Now when George caught the world record back in ’32, he knew exactly what he was going to do with it. He ate it! Hey, those were Depression days and he had a family to feed. But what do you suppose Mac did with his even bigger “Beast.” Believe it or not, the exact same thing his buddy Jed did with this same fish back about three years ago when he caught it and it weighed a mere 21 lbs., 7 oz – let it go!

“Let it go? Are you nuts?!” Again, as any bass fisherman who knows anything can tell you, the next world record bass has been estimated to be worth a cool one million dollars! I know what you’re thinking: “You can have this bass when you pry my dead, cold hands off of it!”, right?

But not Mac. No, he slipped The Beast back into Lake Dixon and unless something strange happened, she’s probably out there making more “Beasts” today. And why did he let her go (yes, almost all big bass are females – sorry ladies, that’s just the way it works in the bass world)? Again, to make a long story short, he had accidentally foul-hooked The Beast. He hooked her just behind a gill, not in the mouth. And though he had witnesses, pictures, had weighed it, and fishing regulations do not disqualify a fish from record status if it was unintentionally foul-hooked (as was indeed the case with The Beast), Mac and his buddies didn’t want to become controversial record-holders. And if you’ve ever been fishing with some buddies and foul-hooked a fish, you know exactly what they’re talking about – the ribbing and disdain you receive can sort of stick in your gills. So although Mac had unquestionably and legally landed the largest bass ever reeled in – and was even noble enough to let her go to swim another day, to boot! – he chose not to pursue the claim for the world record title that is quite arguably, rightfully his.

Why? Well, you see when Mac and his buddies got home Tuesday night, they started taking a “survey” of sorts as they contacted fishermen and fishing authorities about catching The Beast. Sentiment, they say, was running in the 50/50 zone with about half of the folks saying “Claim it; you did it!” and about half saying “Well, I don’t about this …” So Mac decided to walk away from a million bucks and unceasing notoriety and acclaim by many. All because he believed it was more important to do the right thing in the eyes of everyone.

Now in case you didn’t know it, there’s something very, very Biblical about that way of thinking, whether you fish for bass or not. Paul tucked a remarkable sentence away toward the end of what we know today as Romans 12 that reads like this:
“Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.”(Romans 12:17 TNIV)
Listen to how that same verse reads in some other translations:
“… take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.” (New Revised Standard Version)

“Do things in such a away that everyone can see that you are honorable.” (New Living Translation)

Or as Eugene Peterson paraphrased it: “If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody.” (The Message)
Now without question, Mac Weakley is not your average guy – and the whole world knows it now! He not only deliberately released a world record fish and chose not to pursue his rightful one million, but he’s not even the one holding the bass in the pictures that were taken! Talk about humility! How many bass fishermen do you know who would have done that (I ask that, being one myself)?

But it’s precisely this same sort of attitude and behavior that should stand about every one of us as Christians. As the world looks at us, they should not see someone like themselves, someone just always “looking out for number one (self).’ They should – must – see someone who takes pains to take the views and concerns, needs and ways of others into consideration. In fact, this same Christian who write those words in Romans 12 lived by them himself and once when commenting on that, observed: “. . . We are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of others.” (2 Corinthians 8:21 TNIV)

Is that what the world sees when it sees you? Are we “taking pains” to live this way or is tough just to get us to budge from our own comfort zone? Remember, as Christians, we’re not just “trying to get to heaven,” we’re “fishers of men” who are to be about “taking pains” to help as many as possible to join us in the journey!

And that means we consider not just what other Christians think, but what those on “the outside” think, too. Don’t forget what this same man wrote in yet another place regarding leaders of Christians, elders in God’s church: “He must also have a good reputation with outsiders.” (1 Timothy 3:7 TNIV)

So you see, it matters not if you’re a member or a leader or whether those watching you are Christians or not, we must as Christians “be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.” For that is truly world class living, indeed, a living worth far more than all the silver and gold in this world. Don't think the world won't sit up and take notice. Our Lord will, too, at "the weigh-in."

Now despite the fact the preceding was a fish story, it is nevertheless a true story. You can read more on ESPN's site and in Field and Stream.