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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