Brooding and Broadcasting
Dad’s got his mouth full of babies! Talk about a caring father. This jawfish is one of many fish who are “mouthbrooders,” often the dads. See the cute babies’ eyes? The brood stays safe inside dad’s mouth for a week or more after he and mom have created fertile eggs. Periodically he carefully opens up to let the babies aerate and get a little food, then closes up for safety. And no food for dad during this gestation.
These days after Easter are rich in resurrection and possibility, but life still happens, death still happens, and it’s sometimes hard to put some “flesh” (literally) on “Christ is Risen Indeed!”
But I had a “Christ is Risen” moment last week when I learned how fish reproduce; either That was the gospel lesson I heard in the weekly update we Aquarium volunteers get before going on shift.by broadcasting or brooding.
Fish broadcasters shoot out egg and sperm in massive amounts directly into the water, trusting they will meet, and multiply into “spawn innumerable.” (That’s how C.S. Lewis describes the miracle of the loaves and fishes; “God doing close and small, under His human hands, a workman’s hands, what He has always been doing in the sea, the lakes and the little brooks.” )
At our Blue Theology retreats for youth and adults we tell parables of these broadcasted multitudes; a fish goes forth to spawn, the extravagant spawner.
Others fish are brooders. Like the jawfish. It doesn’t mean they are dour grumpy guys. No, brooders pay close attention to their brood. Rather than broadcast and say goodbye, brooders hover and hold and nurture their young, often a smaller group than the broadcasters, but more likely to survive.
In our faith communities I’ve known both broadcasters and brooders. Both help the Body of Christ to birth and grow. Broadcasters run from the tomb saying, “We have seen the Lord!” Brooders walk beside us on the long way and invite, “Come and share our meal.”
Today I thank the brooders, who gently, patiently feed and protect the young or the new, sometimes forsaking their own needs. Like that jawfish, they care not about role, but only about new life. When Mary the mother of Jesus was said to “ponder” what she saw and heard, she was a brooder. Thanks to all who have bred us in the faith, and those who keep caring for our fragile brood.
I wrote this a couple years ago but thought about it again yesterday when I walked with 16 fabulous brooders and broadcasters of the faith (clergy and religious educators) on a Blue Theology Retreat/Resource Day. We had a great time and I believe that some new life and new ideas were hatched! More will be revealed. Bluetheology.com