And The Fish Died

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When my oldest son, Caleb, was 3, he won a goldfish at a local fair in our town. This wasn’t one of the “quality” aquatic creatures, but a simple feeder goldfish.

Now, the life of a feeder goldfish usually has one of two paths. One, he is bought and fulfils the destiny his name suggests and becomes food for another animal. Or two, he is given to a child. In most cases, it really is a draw as to which destiny gives the fish the longest life span.

Caleb was oh-so-proud when he won his goldfish in the goldfish races and didn’t seem to notice that every other child also got to keep their free racing fish, whether they won or loss. He won a goldfish to take home, and that’s all that mattered. When we got to the car, Caleb asked me how we were going to cook him. Yes, he wanted to eat his little goldfish. This boy was a fisherman, still is, and to him getting a fish apparently meant a meal, not a pet.

After I explained the difference, he warmed up to the idea of a pet, so we brought the fish home and stuck him in a bowl. I was not a novice at the fish-keeping business. I know the drill. You get a fish for free. You are prepared to be a good pet owner, so you buy all the equipment. Two days later, said fish dies and you are left with a bunch of boring equipment.

So I waited to buy any equipment. I think the first day, Caleb named him Nemo, but to my knowledge, he has never been referred to as Nemo again. We have always just referred to him as “the fish.” Surprisingly, several days later, the fish was still alive, and I went ahead and coughed up the money for a small aquarium. I wasn’t going to buy a huge one when I was sure the little thing was just waiting for me to spend money on it.

So I got the little aquarium set up. And I waited. But the fish still didn’t die.

He didn’t die when Caleb was 4 years old either. Or 5. Or 6.

No dead fish at age 7.

8 was a good year too.

Caleb is 9 now.

And the fish died.

For six years I have cleaned his little tank. Bought his food and tank filters. Made sure he was cared for whenever we had to leave for a few days.

I was the one to feed him. I tried to have the kids help, but the entire jar of food would end up in the aquarium every time, so instead, it became my job. The fish grew big, and didn’t really fit in his little aquarium any more. His long beautiful tail filled the tank nicely as he’d sashay around.  But I never bought a larger aquarium because I just knew he was going to go belly up any day. He then made the move from our old house to the new house, and I managed not to spill him out as he sat beside me on the car ride over. And he still lived, his box aquarium parked on our counter.

For six years, I waited for the fish to die.

But then, I didn’t want him to.

I have bad guilt. I may have forgotten to feed him a couple of times. My head knows the fish didn’t starve to death. After all, he’d been sick for a few days and stopped eating. In terms of being a feeder fish, he lived an exceptionally long time. But I still have the guilt. Poor little fish with no name!

Then I got to wondering why the death of our little nameless fish was bothering me so much. The reality is that I’ve been in a pretty bad mood about it and definitely channeling attitudes from Eeyore and Grumpy the dwarf.

I guess I feel sentimental because we had him for so long. I never really wanted a fish, and I don’t want another. Our little fish tank will not be getting a new occupant. Like I said, I’ve been waiting for him to die for six years. But I’m still sad to see him go.

But my bad mood is more than that.

It’s the exhaustion from caring for a baby and three other young children.

It’s the stress of trying to remember everything for everyone.

It’s the worry that I’m not doing enough.

And the fish died.

It’s the fact that I have a million things on my to-do list and no time.

That I rarely get to mark anything off the to-do list.

It’s looking around my house and seeing the mess of three tornados and no hope of fixing it.

It’s the hundred things I’d like to put on my husband’s to do list if he actually had time to do any of them.

And the fish died.

It’s the books I have floating in my head, pestering me to be written and no time to do it.

It’s the best sellers that have come to visit my brain and left before I could capture them on paper.

It’s everything that others say need to be done in order to be successful.

It’s the driving need to push myself and do what I love and feel called to do.

It’s the worry that it will all disappear before I can write the next book or put the time into my career I need.

And the fish died.

It’s the frustration of a ministry my husband and I have felt called to do yet have been in the waiting mode for several years.

It’s the confusion of not understanding what God is up to.

It’s the fear that somehow we will or have screwed things up.

It’s the constant worry that I’m not good enough.

And the fish died.

Headaches. Kids fighting. Concern for my extended family.

Caleb is playing tackle football, and I am TERRIFIED!

Am I good mom? Am I a good Christian?

What am I missing? What am I making for dinner?

Did the 3 year-old get his teeth brushed this morning? What about yesterday? A week ago? What smells so bad? Oh, it’s me.

What am I forgetting?

And the fish died.

In short, it’s life.

As I thought of all of these real reasons behind my attitude, I felt my agitation increase. And then, before the worry could completely consume me, two beautiful thoughts popped into my head.

  1. The minutes of a day is like chocolate. There is never enough. I shouldn’t be wasting so much chocolate (I mean minutes) worrying about things that I really can’t change.

Instead, I should turn them all over to the only One who really can change them.

  1. I should take all those worries plaguing me and count them out to God like counting dollar bills into his hand. And then… I shouldn’t accept any refunds.

Giving my worries to God is difficult because I like to take them back. It’s something I need God’s help on. And while God is still working on me, I’m going to try to focus more on the little things. Life. Enjoying the moments that include free fish with no names and being thankful that the rest of us made it through another day relatively intact.

Eventually, I won’t feel so sad that the fish died. Life will go on. I’ll figure out what to make for dinner (McDonalds?), and today’s worries will be paid off by the One who owns them. And I will be thankful that for six years, we had a fish that lived.

 


4 Responses to And The Fish Died

  1. Excellent read! I can relate!

  2. Beautifully written. A timely read for me. I have a huge amount of worries on my plate currently. Sometimes it’s a constant daily struggle to remember to give my worries to God. So many things are up in the air too, as if we’re in limbo right now. Hopefully we’ll have some resolution and direction in a couple weeks but right now it’s hard.
    Thanks for sharing and encouraging. 🙂

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