I don't remember how it started, but for the past few years I have been signing “Sal” along with my signature when I write to certain close friends in my age category. “Sal” is short for SALmon.
I refer to myself as “God's SALmon still swimming upstream in life" only somewhat more slowly due to chronological factors. I'm a nonagenarian, after all. Incredible but true!
If we are obsessed with the calendar, life will be an unhappy, upstream struggle. Being a happy "Sal" fosters a better attitude than viewing life negatively as an inevitable downhill slide of aging. An increasing number of friends have picked up the habit of calling themselves "Sal" too. Welcome to the Club! One friend calls himself a "Wild SALman."
Another confessed, "I'm a hipster salmon swimming upstream because swimming downstream is too mainstream." A great slogan for us who continue to swim upstream to our Finish Line with the help of God. He enables us to courageously persevere regardless of the changes and adversities we encounter in our later years.
What's unique about salmon, other than that they are delicious and mega-nutritious?
An Alaskan salmon leads a most interesting life. One that takes it from the rivers and streams of Alaska's wild frontier an incredibly long distance to the high seas of the Pacific Ocean—and back again. Yes, the same salmon. In fact, right back to the very place it was born. It finds its way from the immensity of the ocean by an amazing instinct from God. A salmon is one of a species of fish known as euryhaline fish that have the ability to live in both salt and fresh water, a gift that allows them to swim freely between the two environments.
Hatched from small eggs in a stream bed, salmon journey “merrily, merrily” downstream towards the ocean. Even downhill, the trip takes a couple of years. After that, they head out to the salty ocean for up to four more years. They swim and feed more than 2000 miles throughout the northern Pacific Ocean. Their journey is hazardous at every point because they are constantly hunted by seals, whales, and fishermen.
When fully mature, an adult salmon will swim back to its original stream or river re-adapting to fresh water. Returning upstream is dangerous and requires great stamina and risk. It swims against the strong current through rugged rivers to leap up miles of rapids and rocky waterfalls, traversing fish ladders, avoiding nets and hooks of fishermen—trying to stay clear of fierce, hungry bears.
Those that survive and finally reach their natal stream breed and lay their eggs. Their life cycle is complete. After spawning, exhausted from a lifetime of struggle, they generally die within a week or two, fertilizing the stream and creating a nutrient-rich environment for the new infant salmon that are about to hatch.
AN ANALOGY TO US AS HUMAN AGING "SALS"
Like the salmon, we too have been on a long adventurous life journey of many decades and various geographical scenarios and under challenging conditions, both physical and spiritual. We have overcome obstacles and hazards and adversities or we've learned to accept and manage them with the help and strength of our loving God. We hope we have matured in wisdom while we have been weathered by the different seasons of life and shifting circumstances.
At times we might have felt that the change from life's fresh waters to salty waters was impossible to endure. But God helps us "Sals" to adapt. We experience "times of refreshing in the presence of the Lord" with abundant fresh water blessings.
Violent bear and whale attacks, both material and spiritual, have been frequent in most of our lives. The hooks of the enemy have often come too close. The battles may have been fierce but were not terminal. Some wounds and scars may remain. It seems that we've often had to swim against the current of changing relationships and devastating losses. At times we've struggled through deep emotional waters and stormy seas.
The distances to accomplish the goals of our lives which we've felt the Lord gave us often seemed daunting. Sometimes we've lost our direction in the vast ocean of life. Time and again God has helped us re-calibrate our GPS to align with His will and sent us on our way once more toward the destination He planned.
Like the salmon, at times we've been exhausted, worn and weary by the length of life's arduous journey. We might have been tempted to stay in the perceived safety and shelter of the familiar ocean and drift with the tide to some easier, closer destination. Swimming upstream and leaping rapids seems just too difficult at our age. That's for the young. We've been there and done that.
Nevertheless, the vision and destiny which God planted in our hearts from our youth, like the inborn instinct of the tiny salmon hatch-lings, impels us to first head downstream into the thick of ocean life in our prime years, and then in maturity to struggle upstream again. “I press on [keep leaping upstream] in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. And I press on [keep leaping upstream] toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:12-14.
Let us who would attain to a "Sal" life take courage in the companionship and support of others who are on the same journey. As long as God generously provides His life and breath and strength and opportunities for us, let us keep leaping the rapids of life. In these days of our advanced maturity, let us be faithful wherever and however and whenever we can to reproduce Christ in others.
That is our "Sal" calling. God's calling has no expiration date. It is for a lifetime and Beyond, just as there is no end to God's faithfulness to us from here to Eternity. There is no retirement program, if our focus is to do the will of God “on earth as it is in heaven.” It's a joyous upstream adventure all the way!
By signing “Sal” with our signature, we remind ourselves and others of the Lord's continuous upward call on our lives without respect to our calendar age.
Enrollment is open--come join the rest of us "Sals!"
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