Two of us will remember that Spring day in 1970 for the rest of our lives...but for very different reasons. It was my first fishing tournament and my first fishing trophy. I was eight years old and yes - I still have the trophy. Fifteen or twenty of us boys from our church group were camping and fishing on the Sam Rayburn Reservoir. None of our adult sponsors had a boat, so we all had to fish the RA (Royal Ambassador) Invitational Bass tournament from the bank.
My Zebco 33 reel was on a brand new Ugly Stick rod and I was chunking a black and chartreuse H&H spinner bait. The night before the tournament we all took turns bragging about who was going to catch the most fish or the biggest fish. I don't know about the other guys, but I was determined to make my words come true. When the time came to start the tournament, I was pumped up and ready to go. With every cast, I gave it all I had. I pushed the button on the Zebco reel, reared that rod back, and rocket-propelled that H&H as far as it would go.
I had two strategies: 1) Cover more water than anyone else. 2) Throw into the brush and stumps where the other guys were afraid to throw. It paid off. Melvin was my only competition and we were both about even when I saw a fallen tree about twenty yards out. I landed my spinner bait right in front of that fallen tree time after time and came back with nothing. To toss over the tree was a risk even I didn't want to take because it meant I would definitely get hung up and lose my lure. The only way I wouldn't get hung up was if a fish hit the lure before it got to the tree. Even if a fish hit it, the chances of dragging a fish over a fallen tree were very slim.
Then Melvin caught another fish.
Before I knew it, my H&H was flying over that fallen tree. No sooner than it hit the water, a four pound bass wrapped his lips around it. My line was zigging and zagging across the bark of that fallen oak. I gave the line a great big yank and two miracles happened. The fish came clear out of the water, over the tree. That was miracle number one. Miracle number two, he didn't spit the hook out. I still had him. My skinny eight-year-old frame fought that bass like he was a marlin. I landed the fish. But before I could celebrate, I noticed Melvin was fishing again. He was chunking over fallen trees.
I gave my prize catch to one of the sponsors so I could get back to fishing. I figured there might be another fish on the other side of that fallen oak. Some of the boys on that fishing trip had never seen a four pound bass, so they were all gathered behind me admiring the fish I caught. But I was worried about Melvin.
I settled my feet into the muddy bank, pushed the button on the reel, reared back, and tried to chunk that spinner bait to the same spot, but my lure got caught in something behind me. I didn't look back to see what it was. I just kept yanking.
At first, I thought it was a tree limb above me, and if I just yanked hard enough, it would break loose. Then I noticed something. Every time I yanked, Macky yelled. I turned around to see that the hooks of my H&H were caught in the top of Macky's head! He had been behind me admiring my recent catch -- only to become my next one.
I never got another chance to toss on the other side of that oak because the sponsors called an end to the tournament while they dug my hooks out of Macky's head with their pocket knives.
I got a trophy. Macky got stitches. Neither of us will ever forget that day. But for different reasons. It was a moment of pride for me, but pain for him.
There's coming a day the whole world will never forget. A day that will cause some to rejoice and many others to regret. It will be the day to end all days. The day all days end. Then, according to Jesus in Matthew 24-25, there will be a separation. Some will inherit a glorious eternity in the presence of God. Others will begin an eternity of unspeakable sadness and pain.
All will be fair. All will be final. The good news of God's love and His grace-gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ is within your heart's grasp. Trust Him or turn away from Him. It's your choice. But it is the biggest decision you'll ever make with the longest lasting results you'll ever experience. It'll be a day none of us will ever forget.
I pray it won't be for different reasons.