December 10, 2010
What I learned about God from a fish tank
It’s a gift size book that features a collection of 31 morning and evening prayers for Christmastime. At least, that is the subtitle that is listed on the cover of the book.
I’ve found it to be so much more than I’d expected. I’m only on day #10 and it has already given me so much to think about. Passages of Scripture that I’ve read more times than I can count are coming alive in new ways. I love the fact that God’s Word is alive and active. It is fresh and always has something new to offer when we take the time to ponder it.
One of the things that I’ve been giving a lot of thought to is the whole concept of “the Word becoming flesh.” It is, after all, the main reasons believers celebrate Christmas. Our thoughts center on the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We sing about it, talk about it, even reenact the nativity. It’s a wonderful heart-warming story but when we talk about it, for what it really is, the incarnation sometimes can be a difficult concept to grasp.
Just why did God come up with this plan? Doesn’t it seem a bit bizarre? How do you explain, to the questioning mind, why Divinity clothed Himself in flesh and walked among men? That can be a hard one for some people to break down.
One of the reasons that I’m so geeked about this book, Pursuing the Christ, is because of what it offered regarding the incarnation. I was amazed by Phillip Yancey's take on the subject (which the author generously shared) and doubt that I’ll forget it anytime soon. It was helpful to me as a believer. I feel it will be of great help to inquiring minds as well.
Phillip shares about how he learned about the incarnation while, of all things, managing a salt-water aquarium. I’ve never owned one but the day after reading his explanation sat in a dentist office full of them. I found myself enthralled like never before.
Yancey explained that there is a great amount of time and detail involved in monitoring such an aquarium. Apparently they are virtually chemical laboratories where just the right levels of nitrate and ammonia must be present. Vitamins, antibiotics, sulfa drugs, and just the right amount of enzymes must be pumped in at all times. The water must be filtered properly for the rock, plants, and fish to thrive. And of course light, there must be ultraviolet light. And most importantly food must be given on schedule. Anyone who has maintained a salt-water environment for fish understands this.
Phillip went on to say this “You would think, in view of all the energy expended on their behalf that my fish would at least be grateful. Not so. Every time my shadow loomed above the tank they dove for cover into the nearest shell. They showed me one “emotion” only: fear. Although I opened the lid and dropped in food on a regular schedule, three times a day, they responded to each visit as a sure sign of my designs to torture them. I could not convince them of my true concern. To my fish I was a deity. I was too large for them, my actions, too incomprehensible. My acts of mercy they saw as cruelty; my attempts at healing they viewed as destruction. To change their perceptions, I began to see, would require a form of incarnation. I would have to become a fish and “speak to them in a language they could understand.” –The Jesus I Never Knew, Phillip Yancey
As a sat watching the tanks in my dentist’s office the next day the filters bubbled, the ultra-violet light shone, and the clown fish, living up to their names, acted goofy. At the slightest human movement, the fish recoiled in fear. It happened over and over again. And suddenly it dawned on me--that’s why the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
So that we could behold Him. Face to face. Hand in hand. Heart to heart. Spirit to spirit.
As we behold Him we see, hear, and feel His heart. And although His thoughts and ways are far beyond our understanding we can know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that He truly cares for us. His actions are merciful. His plan is for healing—not destruction.
The incarnation, simply means, that God jumped into the fish bowl of life and spoke our language so that we would finally get it. He came in the form of a baby and experienced all that we would ever go through so that He could fully relate to us and so that we would fully relate to Him.
I will never look at a fish tank the same way again!
"So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father's one and only Son." John 1:14 NLT