What’s Your Starfish Story?

Written by Josh Gerbitz

I have attended at least 5 conferences that revolved around cows in the last year. Two of those conferences had the same keynote speaker. His name is Steve Jones. He’s a football coach at a high school in Appleton, Wisconsin and he had a very valuable message. Among the quality content he shared there was one thing he mentioned that resonated with me more than anything else. He told a story about a young boy who was walking on the beach after high tide. During the high tide a massive amount of starfish rushed onto the shore in the water. When the water receded, the starfish were left to die on the beach. This young boy saw their need for help and picked up the starfish one by one and threw them back into the water. However, there were thousands of starfish on this beach and it would be impossible for him to save them all. A cynical old man walked up to the boy and reminded him of just that saying: “What are you doing boy? You’re wasting your time; you can never save them all.” The boy responded: “I may not be able to change the world or save this whole population of starfish, but for the starfish I did throw back, I changed their life.” 

The speaker went on to tell stories about all the ways we can be like that boy and change one person’s life. He asked members of the audience to share their starfish story with the people around them; a story about a time someone threw them back in the water. Inevitably, this made me think about my own starfish story. However, my egocentric brain led me to think about times I have been the boy, not the starfish. I thought about how I can do a better job being the boy, which was the speaker’s overarching goal. 

Last weekend I was sitting in church listening to my pastor’s sermon. It was about how we need more pastors and teachers in my church synod. It made me think that even though my calling may not be in the pastoral ministry, there are still many ways I can better use my gifts to serve the Lord. Throughout the sermon, while he was challenging us to spread God’s Word, the starfish story kept running through my head. Steve Jones did a great job of pushing us to do something with the starfish story, but Jesus tells the story much more clearly.  Jesus said in the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” At first, we were just starfish on the shore, destined to nothing. But God through his grace saves us and brings us back to the ocean. He calls us to go be the boy on the beach. Christ calls us to His Word to throw those starfish into the water of His grace. God gave us all the tools we need to tell the good news to people. We need the Holy Spirit to cause His love to shine through us despite our sins and laziness.

We cannot be afraid of the “old men” in the world. Everywhere we go there will be people telling us we’re wrong and wasting our time. While that can be discouraging, God encourages us to know we are doing His Will. God’s Word is like the water, and humans are destined for hell if they don’t hear it. Simply sharing the good news that hell is no longer a concern through Jesus is like throwing that starfish back. If sharing the gospel seems daunting or too large of a task, think of one person who needs to hear the message and throw them back towards the water. We have all had someone be that little boy in our life and we have all been the starfish. Now we have a chance to be that little boy for all the other starfish out there.