Fish Tank

I was over visiting at a friend’s house for the first time for a group hangout.  I had to go to the bathroom, and the bathroom was in the basement, for some reason.  Anyway, the family’s kids took me down to the basement.

It was pretty much impossible not to notice the huge fish tank.  I have a particular aversion to fish.  I hate dead fish.  It creeps me out that they float upside-down.  If fish didn’t die, I wouldn’t mind them at all, but because they do, I stay away.

I was checking for dead fish, something I always do when I walk by a fish tank.  This tank looked particularly funny.  The tank was filthy, for one thing, so cloudy it was hard to see through.  The fish were gigantic, not like goldfish at all, and there was something in the way they were swimming that made me feel kind-of ill.

I asked something about them, and one of kids responded something like, “Oh, yeah, we’re not feeding them.”

I turned to look at her in shock.  Then I turned to stare at the tall canister of fish food sitting right beside the tank.

“Dad won’t let us feed them,” she explained.  “He wants to get rid of them.”

If I had felt kind-of ill before, I felt really ill now.  I went back upstairs and talked to the wife.  She said something like, “Yeah, isn’t that terrible?  I wish he would get rid of them some other way.”

I wanted to feed those fish so badly.  But I realized if I did that, I would only be prolonging their misery, since they weren’t going to be fed when I left.  Here was this huge, awkward tank with these giant fish who were slowly starving to death.

I left that house and I never went back.  I thought about those fish, and the sickening feeling I’d gotten, and the helplessness, too.  Who could help them, when their own owner wanted them dead?

What bothered me the most was what I’d seen them doing.  They were trying to find food.  One had tried going up towards the surface, hoping, still hoping, someone would open the plastic door and sprinkle food in, like they had been accustomed to for so long.  It was an ugly fish.  And ugly fish that had been conditioned to think there would be food up top.  An ugly fish that didn’t know it was ugly or too big and that its owner had decided it wasn’t wanted anymore.

That image stays with me still.  I think about that fish, and there was a time when I wondered if this wasn’t actually what our relationship with God is like.

Ruined by sin, we are ugly, gangly creatures.  And we are trapped on a planet that, although once was perfect, is now just as ruined as we are, because we are on it.  And we wonder . . . has God forgotten we are here?  Will He clean up after us anymore?  Has He left, taking His love with Him?  Are we left here to fend for ourselves, to slowly die lonely, sad deaths?

“I will in no way leave you, neither will I in any way forsake you.” (God, quoted in Hebrews 13:5b, WEB)

“I am not going to forsake you like orphans. I will come back to you.” (Jesus, quoted in John 14:18, ISV)

God doesn’t set a canister of His love on the other side of a glass tank.  Instead, He pours His love out on us.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9, NIV)

God is love. (1 John 4:16b, NIV)

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8, NIV)

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8, ESV)

The only person who wants us in a loveless tank is Satan.  The moment we receive Christ into our lives, we find a Master who not only feeds us with His love, but who died so He could forgive us and feed us love–a job nobody else wanted.

And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ. (2 Thessalonians 3:5, AKJV)

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The Maze: Part 10, Death

The only thing that stood in between me and the door were these huge, ginormous, super tall, gigantic, humongous, really tall statues.

They were scary, scary, scary.  They were these tall statues of that Egyptian god that’s a dog or something.  I can’t remember if they had those Egyptian always-awake side-eyes or not.  But I was petrified they were animatrons.

I would not go forwards.  I was so close to the end.  I didn’t want to give up, but I was terrified.  My dad couldn’t wheel me anymore.  He tried to inspire me by saying something like, “Look, you can see the outside.”  And he was right.  The bright, sunny, warm, happy day was streaming into this last abysmal corridor of the maze.

There was an attendant nearby, and my mom went up to her and asked her if the statues moved.  Mom told her I had a terrible fear of animatrons.  The attendant said they did not move.  I watched people exit with no problems.  And I didn’t believe the attendant would lie when she had to see how scared I was.

Well.

I walked past those really tall, humongous, gigantic, super tall, ginormous, huge statues, and I was keeping a close eye on the one closest to me.  And right when I got to where, if I took one more frightened step, I would be right in front of it–that thing started walking towards me.

I’ve heard for a long time now that people fear public speaking more than death.

I’m not sure I believe that.

Death is a scary idea.

I have things that terrify me like everyone else (ok, maybe more than some people), but if I was truly forced to pick between death and one of them . . . I’m not sure I would pick death.  Maybe I would.  But the idea of really leaving my body, really going into eternity . . . that’s terrifying to me.

I don’t know myself without my body.  I have never seen my soul.  I don’t know what I would look like, or even if I could see myself.  I don’t know what Heaven is like and, even though I believe Jesus will keep my soul safe there . . . I am still scared.  There are so many unknowns about Heaven.  I don’t want to play a harp all day long.  And there are so many mysteries about God that are too great for me to understand.  What if I find out God hates me after all?

With all the what-ifs, all the fears, all the knowledge too big to fit into my tiny brain . . dying sounds awfully scary.  And yet I believe God, in His great grace, gave me an allegory for what death will be like for me in a little maze in California on a hot summer day when I was still a teenager and my life was an absolute shipwreck.

First . . there’s the scare.  Just like that statue that didn’t look like it could possibly move actually did move and came towards me, Death will come for me someday if Jesus does not return before then.

I will die.  At 28, I can tell I don’t have the same youth I had at 8.  I don’t figure that’s going to get better by 38 or 48 or 58 or 68 or 78 or 88 or 98 or 108.  And, on top of a ticking clock, there are all the diseases I could get, all the accidents that could happen to me, and always the possibility I could be killed.

I am pretty good at talking myself out of the idea of death.  I used to play video games because they somehow seemed “unchanging”, like maybe they might be around forever.

But that’s a no-go.

The Super Nintendo I got addicted to in 1993 or so isn’t just exactly the same as a Wii.

Even though a game can stay the “same” each time you play it and you can think of that as an eternal quality . . it also has no flexibility for change past what was written into its computer chip.  So sooner or later, I always had to switch out games.

(Besides that, eventually the game would plain old rot.  There is nothing eternal about the nature of technology.  You can ask the 8-track if you don’t believe me.)

Sitcoms try to promise that “unchanging” concept, too: families or friends on TV stay much the same through the years, often living in the same house or apartment.  But then the time comes when the actors go on to do different things or they retire or die, and the viewer soaking up all that make-believe for so many years must settle for reruns in an attempt to feel the same “happiness”.  That, too, doesn’t work, because, sooner or later, it gets old to watch the same episodes over and over and over.

Even if video games and sitcoms could last forever . . we don’t.  We have bodies cursed because of sin, and they aren’t going to last for hundreds of years, much less thousands or millions or billions or trillions or . .

Why am I saying all this?  Am I trying to celebrate Halloween or something?

Not at all.  I get that death is a scary topic–I get it very well.

I about needed a heart transplant–for my own heart to be taken out of my throat and put back in my chest.

Death is coming for all of us . . and, if that was all I had to say, I could be campaigning for October 31.

But I have news that’s so good, you can almost forget about death altogether: There IS an escape, an escape that all of us can take–an escape to the world of Light.

“Look, you can see the outside.”

There is a way past death, a way so far beyond death’s reach it can’t possibly hope to get us.  Just as that doorway was much too small for that statue to get out of, God’s gates are far too wise to allow even the least sin through.

Satan can never get us when we are safe in the love of God.

But how can we possibly get through God’s gates ourselves, if sin is not allowed?  It doesn’t do me any good to know there’s salvation beyond the boundaries I can reach with the chain of my sin anchored securely to Hell.

But Jesus broke that chain on the cross.  Jesus didn’t come only to show us the way to Heaven–if He had, there would still be no people in Heaven besides the Lord Himself.  Knowing the way to Heaven isn’t enough–we have to be freed from our sin to make it there.

That animatronic Egyptian dog statue couldn’t get me because it was on a set path of movement.  And it could not take one step further than the programming within it allowed.

In kind of the same way, Satan thought he had it all figured out.  He had a 100% chance of catching us in our sins.  But then Jesus made a path where Satan was not allowed–a path from our fallen world straight into Heaven!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Satan didn’t see it coming because it took God’s death to make that path possible.  And even if Satan had seen it coming, there was absolutely nothing he could have done–and nothing he can do, still today.

The path is open to all who want to take it, because Satan can’t place a blockade even the size of an ice cube in the path of an all-powerful God willing and able to purchase back His people from their sins, and to forgive them.

I ran screaming out of that maze, and let me tell you something, that animatronic stupid statue thing, it may have been tall, and it may have had big old long legs, but it could not catch me.  I ran faster than the gingerbread man out of that maze and onto the top of a stairwell.  The sun burst through my fear and my heart decided it didn’t have to beat 10 times a second anymore.

Death . . is real.  But eternity with God can be, too.

I am still scared of animatronic Egyptian dog statues.  And, way more than that, I am still scared of death.  But I don’t have to panic as my life unravels into death.  Instead, I can run to the Light, for there is my Savior.

 In Him was Life, and that Life was the Light of men.  The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it. (John 1:3-4, Weymouth NT)

Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27-28, NIV)

Published in: on October 27, 2011 at 3:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Hundred Acre Wood

On a Hundred Acre Wood personality test . . .

Energy— I could have been Tigger as a kid.

Fear— Piglet, no doubt.

Mood–for a long old time, I would have been an Eeyore.  Now I’m like Eeyore after he finds his tail.

Maturity– Yeah, I guess I’d be Roo.

Caring— I hope I’m like Kanga, more and more caring every day.

Bossy— I maybe could be Rabbit sometimes maybe.

Personality–Type A line-all-the-cabbages-in-a-row . . I admit.  Rabbit’s my buddy.

Verbosity–Loquaciousness to tedium, I’m afraid I’m sometimes Owl.

Acuity–Out of it, forgetful, and habitually late,  I know I would be Pooh.

Fashion Sense–I’m rather afraid I would fit in the category with Christopher Robin.

. . . . . . . . . But I really hope I don’t have anything in common with Gopher.  Although, before I got retainers, there might have been a bit of resemblance.

Thank you, retainers.

Isn’t it incredible that God has room for each of us in His Kingdom, no matter who we are?

A voice came from the throne. It said, “Praise our God, all who serve and fear him, no matter who you are.” (Revelation 19:5, GW)

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Photograph by Gord Webster, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/thievingjoker/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

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