Fishbowl Lies

When I was growing up my Nannie had the most beautiful salt-water aquarium.  I spent hours gazing at the yellow tang, the funny sea horses, or the delicate sea stars.  That crazy lady even had those fish trained so that when she scratched on the top of the aquarium they came swimming up in a frenzy ready to eat.  She also had a “fish guy” who came to her house to clean out the tank, bleach the coral, and add new fish when she needed them once a month or so.  The whole process was fascinating and the end result added beauty and wonder to their home.  These are lovely memories for me…. Now fast forward to life today on the Ranchito.

My husband calls me an “animal hoarder.”  I don’t know if that is a thing, but if it is, then I am one.  I should never be allowed in a PetSmart unaccompanied.  I search PetFinders like some women search Pinterest.  I have been known to pull over on the side of unsafe roads to try to lure a stray anything to my car. I had a pet squirrel that lived in my bedroom named Popcorn.  Once, after having seen a stray cat in a hotel parking lot, I saved all the chicken from my quesadilla at the restaurant next door to tempt the kitty to me. It worked and that cat was our Ranger for 10 years.  Just last month I showed up to a meeting 20 minutes late with asphalt stains on the knees of my lovely winter white pants because there was a kitten under a car at the mall…  Chick-fil-a was the bait of choice that day and I was less successful.  Your loss, kitty.

I may or may not have passed this little disorder on to my children.  (Sorry Babe)  They have asked for a pet everything you can imagine.  We have obliged where we could- puppies, kittens, bunnies, chickens, even a leopard geko.  There have been seasons where a caught tarantula took up residence, we have had a colorful fire toad,  and there was a large container of scoripions at one point (boys, you know?).  Sorry kids, you will never have a snake, I’ll keep working on Dad about the ponies and wallaby (who are we kidding- the wallaby is all me), and it is illegal to have a tiger.  One mistake I have made in my animal hoarding is a yes to the fish in the bowl.  You know the deal, the pretty beta fish in the little glass bowl, or maybe the goldfish they won at the school carnaval.  The cheap fish in the cheap bowl- easy peasy.  One container of food will last the fish’s entire life. A grand total investment of $15. Done.


These little fish swimming around in the scalloped, crystal clear bowls are lying to you.  That water will be gross and smelly by the time you wake up in the morning.  Remember the scene from Finding Nemo where the fish stop up the filter so the tank gets super dirty?  Well, guess what?  Your $15 didn’t even get you a filter.  It also didn’t cover the nice “fish guy” who will come to your house and clean out your bowl.  So you are stuck with unfiltered, waste water and some kids who are no longer interested.  I have fallen for it more times than I would like to admit.

Can’t our lives feel like that as well sometimes?  I see it everyday…People swimming around in their own dirty water, in their waste, desperate for some fresh air.  Is there anything we long for more than encouragement?  Not long ago I started feeling insecure in relationships that I knew in my head were steadfast and strong.  My courage started to falter.  The Lord showed me that my courage in those relationships can come from encouraging them.  Courage is built when we encourage each other.  None of us are entitled to encouragement, apart from the knowledge of the love of Christ and our identity in Him (and that is ENOUGH, for sure).  There are usually no cheerleaders as I go about my daily tasks.  Not many of us get enough “atta-girls.”  That is why when we have the courage to give one to someone else, what a gift!  Maybe we can be a “fish guy” to someone today and offer a little fresh air.  Maybe it would offer our own bowls a chance to get clean if we would stop swimming around in our own junk and jump on over into someone else’.

Our dirty water is making us sick, isn’t it?  Just like those little fish that looked so happy and healthy yesterday that are now belly up in the murky mess.  Not just spiritually sick, physically sick as well.  I recently read an article about “How Emotions Affect Immune Systems” by Jane Collingwood.  In it she sites Dr. Steve Cole’s study on loneliness.  She quotes, “One of the most robust social risk factors involves the number and quality of an individual’s close personal relationships.  People who are socially isolated [swimming around in their own mess- my words!!!] have increased risk of death from all causes, and several specific infectious, cancerous, and cardiovascular diseases.”   Later on she quotes Dr. Richard Davidson saying, “It’s absolutely likely that positive emotions can improve your immune function.  People with negative emotional styles would be more likely to develop the flu.”  I am not as smart as any of these people but this sounds like some fishbowl logic to me.  The dirty water is making us sick.  The very best flu shot we can get may very well be encouragement!!!

I think one of the fishbowl lies is that, “no one understands me, what I’m going through, this situation…..”  Oh, it’s a stinky one.  Here is what I have learned: my hard may be different than your hard but it’s still hard.  Let me tell you about a few  of thehards” I have had.  There have never been two people less prepared in all of history to get married than my husband and I were.  Let’s just say that we had some serious hards for the first, oh decade or so, of our marriage.  We also had some “can’t keep the lights on” financially hard years.  I am raising my babies approximately 10 million miles from my parents and shifting the expectations of what that looks like has been hard.  Maybe someone could look at my not-hards and forget the hards… I come from a fantastic, intact family who loves me and introduced me to Jesus.  I had no problem conceiving 4 healthy babies.  I have awesome friends, a vibrant church, the opportunity to stay home and serve my family.  Maybe someone would look at my marriage 16 years in and have no idea… Look at my hubby’s job, our home, our community of faith and never know how it used to be.  That is fine.  I’m not trying to swim around in old dirty water, but make no mistake, I understand hard. And what if I looked at someone who had an amazing, mature, God-honoring marriage right from the “I Do’s” and enough money to go to Bora Bora for their honeymoon (y’all, the hut in the middle of the ocean), and thought their bowl was crystal clean.  All the while they may be struggling with infertility, illness, or issues that come from a foundation not nearly as strong as mine was.  Their hard is different.  Your hard may be different.  The things that are clouding your fishbowl may be very different than the things clouding mine.  But how much we lose when we stay in our own stinking water thinking, “no one understands.”  We can find FaceBook pages and support groups and little cliques of people walking in the same hard we are walking in (and sometimes we need to, certainly).  We can get so used to our dirty water we can’t see anyone else’.  We can stay put and suffocate. But what if we all just jumped on out of our junk for a moment and started spashing some encouragement around?    Trust that everyone has hard. No one you’ll meet today is “over-encouraged.”

In the end, Jesus is the ultimate “fish guy.” (Sorry, Lord).  He comes in and cleans up our mess with his grace and forgiveness.  He can take our rancid water and make something beautiful out of it.  So, today why don’t you take a fresh breath of encouragement and offer one to someone else.  Don’t fall for the fishbowl lies again!

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