Life Lessons From A Beta Fish.
IN LOVING MEMORY OF:
GABBY, THE BETA FISH
JUNE 2016 - SEPTEMBER 2017
“Okay, Gabbs…you have to relax. I’m just trying to help you,” Ross says sweetly.
Gabbs is short for “Gabby”….Gabby is our Beta Fish. Actually, Gabby is Sophia’s Beta Fish. Gabby was gifted to Sophia by Ross on the day I introduced them to each other, and since the almost-year-and-a-half that Gabby has been part of our little family, Ross has voluntarily taken up the responsibility of cleaning out her tank regularly.
Cleaning out Gabby’s tank is done often (because it doesn’t have a filter), and it’s quite a process:
1. Ross first has to fill a separate large bowl with filtered water.
2-4. Ross then takes Gabby out of the tank with a net to put her in a separate large bowl of filtered water.
5. Ross empties the tank of its filthy, poopy water and brushes the tank clean--- it is absolutely disgusting. There's a reason why Ross does this part of the cleaning---I don't do well with slime, fish poop, and algae that collect over time.
6-7. Ross then places the tank's contents in a separate bowl for Sophia to scrub clean.
Last night, Sophia helped Ross with this cleaning process. As Ross was placing Gabby into the bowl of filtered water, it was apparent that Gabby was scared. I'm always surprised that she reacts this way because it's not like it's the first time she's had her tank cleaned. She just jerks around profusely inside the net that Ross uses to transport her, and it was clear that as soon as she landed in the bowl, she did not like it. Nope, not one bit. I don't blame her. It was DEVOID of her castle, her seashells, and her landscaping. HOWEVER, in the hour that Ross and Sophia are cleaning her tank, brushing her castle clean, and rinsing off the poop-infested pebbles, Gabby quickly became comfortable in that separate bowl (8). But when it was time to place her back into her clean tank and her castle, Gabby became antsy again, swimming against the current of the flow that would take her to her cleaner, healthier, and better home.
I realized: I. WAS. GABBY. My life and everything in it was full of crap at one point. My Owner had to do some clean-up and temporarily placed me in my own empty fishbowl, devoid of everything that I knew to be familiar. I remember being in that proverbial fish bowl: I was scared, I was lonely, and I developed anxiety and depression. Then, surprisingly, over time, the negativity started to feel comfortable to me----comfortable in the dark, shadowy hole where I could hide my true self because hiding my shame felt much better than exposing it. And the prospect of freedom from that proverbial jail cell of shame seemed scary.
Funny how that works.
It reminds me of when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt to enter the Promised Land. The Israelites were so stubborn and hard-hearted that they wandered that desert for 40 years when the trip should have taken them only 11 days. They witnessed all the plagues, they saw the presence of God in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, and they saw the darn Red Sea part. But in their stubbornness, they wailed and complained actually WANTING to go back to their slavery becausr slavery felt more comfortable than being hungry in the desert. They had no vision of what their life could be like in the Promised Land. I'm slow to be too critical, because when I feel like criticizing on those Israelites, I think about how long they were slaves in Egypt for: 400 years. Think about that for a second. America itself is only about 240 years old, and in the 30-plus years I've lived in it, I've adapted to a American culture a lot. But those Israelites were slaves for 400 years. In that time frame, I'm sure their children, and their children's children, and generations after them adopted the Egyptian way of thinking, eating, and being. So before I give them too much of a hard time, I think about how long it took me to get comfortable in my pain, in my sorrow, and in my head. Not long, I can tell you that. Not even a year, maybe? I am no better. I may be actually worse. Oh, and the miracles they saw?? How often did I think, “Boy, if I had witnessed what they witnessed, I would have NEVER wallowed in idolatry."
Really? Because the last I remembered, I could count different blessings and miracles on one hand and I still often came to a place of disbelief, idolatry, and misplaced trust and worship in my faith on the other hand.
Like the Israelites, at one point I couldn’t see outside and beyond my current circumstance, and I certainly couldn’t see any future hope. So, I clothed myself in my own self-pity, and I wore the cloak of shame. It sounds painful, and it was…but after a while, it became comfortable.
I was given the opportunity to share my story at my church this past weekend. I was nervous. I sing in front of people----I don't speak. I remember someone asking me if I was "ready" and I remember saying that I intentionally didn't prepare because if I did, I'd sound robotic. And I didn't want to sound robotic. I wanted God to work---and I find that He typically does when he isn't put in a box. So, I decided I wasn't going to.
There were no fireworks, and there wasn't anything supernatural that happened before, during or after my little 2-minute talk. But I left the audience with this piece of advice: If you're swimming against the current of God's will (like how i did at one point in my life, and what Gabby did trying to swim the other direction from her clean tank), even God's goodness will feel like pain. What we should be swimming against is the current of self-pity, shame, and regret. What we should be fighting against are the voices inside of each of us telling us we aren't good enough, or that we can never BE enough. There is no past sin, no past regret, and no amount of years that God cannot redeem and restore. But you have to dive in and swim WITH His current. And if you aren't, you aren't too far gone where His life jacket can't reach you.