Friday, September 07, 2007

Fish are friends, not food.

*The following is a rehash & expansion of an article that will appear in the Murphy Messenger this week.*

Parenting … it’s always an adventure, isn’t it?

The newest development in our household is that my oldest two daughters now have little aquariums. They were so excited to come home and get them set up with the little rocks and the treasure chest and the fake plants. Then came the fish.

We’ve had dogs. We’ve had cats. Hamsters were requested, but fish I was not expecting.

I think pets are good for kids; they facilitate learning. If you have a dog in the backyard, they’ve learned that in life you don’t have to step in it to know that it smells.

Dogs taught our kids the responsibility of ensuring there was always something to eat & drink—just like God always provides for His own.

From cats they learned that affections are not always returned or appreciated, just as we often shun time with our Heavenly Father.

But what about fish? What can they learn from fish? I found out.

“One of my fish ate pepper!”

My puzzled look prompted the teary-eyed Sarah to say, “One of my fish ate my other fish.” Oh … I see.

(Apparently, Pepper is a fish, not a seasoning)

This was on the heels of a call I received on the way home. I needed to pick up a fish net. One of Rachel’s fishes had died and needed to be sent to a watery grave.

My daughters are 8 and 6 and they weren’t happy that death had reared its ugly head in their aquariums. But having fish has taught them that death is part of life and that life is fleeting.

The reality of death is harsh, especially when death overtakes a loved one. Our kids have not experienced the death of a family member, though we dealt with the loss of one of Sarah's best friends earlier in the year.

Death, even of fish, is a reminder of just how fleeting life is.
What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
-James 4:14, ESV
If you’ve had kids you know how easy it is to blink and miss so much. You have babies that yesterday learned to walk and now are in school. Tomorrow they’ll want to marry someone unworthy of them.

Our beloved friends and family are worth far more than fish. You can’t just spend another few dollars and replace them.

It's cliche perhaps, but God brings people in our lives for a season and then they are gone. Appreciate them as gifts from God (James 1:17; Ps 127:3; Prov 19:14) and allocate your time accordingly.

Prioritize the people in your life, especially if you have young children. One day they're pestering you to tell you about their toy or show you their newest trick and then the next they're going to be wanting to play with friends or talking to them on the phone.

One day you're their great source of wisdom and then the next you're gonna be out of touch with reality and a moron of the highest order.

I thank God for my kiddos and hope to minimize the regret of not enjoying and appreciating their younger years. It's never too late to try to renew the relationships, but I hope we all have minimal catch-up to pursue.


At 06 September, 2007 19:57, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We always liked the opportunity to teach our kids about death through the many fisheswe've gone through. (Cleaning the bowl always gets them...) It seems to me we American types, keep our death far to, um, far from us to allow it to do its job. Death is front and center in the majority of the world, and was here while we we're fixing up this nice little spot on the globe. Now we go to ILLOGICAL lengths to prolong what sad lives we can have. With surgeries, injections, machines, legislation, etc. I'm not all for killing the slow, weak ones, but how sanitized and sterile can we make life, and still call it L I F E? I wonder if some of the ethical questions facing the church and its relationship to science would take care of themselves if we didn't live like sissies?


At 07 September, 2007 11:32, Blogger GUNNY said...

I don't know how to say this without it sounding harsh or crude, but I also wonder about a Christian spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to ward off death for another few months.

For the Christian, for the Christian now, I'm talking only to the Christian ...

Death has lost its sting.

So, is there a faith issue involved or a stewarship issue, with regard to spending the Lord's money?

To clarify, I'm not speaking to issues related to cancer treatment or efforts to cure something. Nor am I saying we're lacking faith or poor stewards if we take medicine when we're sick or visit the doctor.

I'm speaking in terms of those instances where it's clear what the outcome will be and we're haggling over a few months tops.

I may become a big coward when the day comes, but at this point I'm hoping I'll not saddle my loved ones with mountains of debt from medical bills because I was too scared to join my Savior in everlasting bliss.

Also, I agree that we're pretty insulted from death in our world. Since I happen to think death is one of the automatic "triggers" God has worked into life to force us to think of things eternal, we probably do our people a disservice in this country with such insulation.

At 07 September, 2007 11:32, Blogger Matt Bradley said...

One named BoBo and posting anonymously should not be bandying about words like "sissy". :)

(Been missing you at the g-man, Jason).

As for fish and dying, as soon as I read that you had fish I knew death was going to be an issue in this post. Before having kids Leslie and I thought we'd get fish and see if we were capable of keeping another living thing alive. No one told us that with fish you've lost before you've even begun. Inexplicably, thought, we did have one fish that just seemed to go on and on despite it all...clean water, dirty water, long vacations during which it wasn't fed, obvious overfeeding, this little fish just seemed to keep going. I like to think this reflects the apparent injustice Solomon points out in Ecclesiastes...the righteous die early and the unrighteous live long lives...all is vanity.

Anyway...nice post.


At 07 September, 2007 13:04, Anonymous NCguy said...

When our son was around 10, we had one of those beta fish. One day my wife made the mistake of cleaning his bowl out over the kitchen sink with my son standing up on a chair looking on. As she carefully poured the water out of the bowl, suddenly Mr. Beta slipped out and went down the disposal. There was no way to get the poor fellow out without removing the whole disposal assembly. Yet she couldn't bear the thought of Mr. Beta drying out and dying a slow death. So with a sad, frustrated look on her face, she glanced at our son, then flipped the switch . . . So my son got two lessons in one, learning about death and euthanasia in a single instant.


At 07 September, 2007 13:37, Blogger Timothy said...

All very good points. I think Timothy... what is that professors name?... pointed this out to me in one of my leadership classes. We insulate ourselves from death with our funeral industry, etc. In the old days, the grave yards surrounded the church for several reasons.

One, was a reminder that death is always there, and two, so that we could remember the saints that have gone on before us and worship continuously in heaven. When we gather to worship, we are joining them.

Now we have graveyards that look like parks, they are kept out of site, and everything is sanitized.

Maybe if it were not so sanitized, we would take life more seriously.

At 07 September, 2007 19:20, Blogger GUNNY said...

Matt wrote: "As for fish and dying, as soon as I read that you had fish I knew death was going to be an issue in this post."

I'm getting the impression that the non-longevity of fish is a rather universal experience!


Timothy, that sounds like Tim Ralston's worship class. I appreciated that aspect of the historic church with whom I worshipped while we were in Oxford. Passing by the departed saints on the way to worship each Lord's Day was a great reminder of the great cloud of witnesses with which we were/are surrounded.

NCGuy ... GREAT story. I'll look forward to hearing it in its fullness from Mrs. NCguy. Did NCguy Jr. at least get a replacement fish out of the deal? No wonder they sell those things so cheap, but it's a shame they don't come with a warranty or exchange policy.

Now, if it was an ex-parrot, then I imagine the shop would have to make it right.

At 07 September, 2007 21:46, Anonymous NCguy said...

Response to Gunny:

I can't remember if she replaced the fish. You can ask her on Sunday. I know that she suffers guilt to this day.


At 08 September, 2007 08:54, Blogger Matt Bradley said...

Wha Gunny? Ex-parrot? Nothin' wrong with that parrot...jus' restin', 'at's all!

At 08 September, 2007 11:37, Blogger GUNNY said...

Matt, when I got it home I realized the only reason it was on its perch was because it had been nailed there!

Hurry up and take back this parrot so I can still have time to make it to the cheese shop before getting my hair cut by a lumberjack.

At 10 September, 2007 22:15, Anonymous jade said...

When our fish died, I went to the back yard in the middle of the night and dug a hole. It turns out my neighbor just happened to be glancing in the direction of our backyard then and wondered what I was doing in the middle of the night in the back yard with a shovel. I later explained to him that our fish died and I was digging a grave for it. He didn't look like he was buying it. From then on, I just flush dead fishes down the toilet bowl (which I hate to do...which is the reason why I prefered to bury it in the back yard)....I don't know why I'm babbling about this..but your post trigger such a memory... :ob


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