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Lessons From The Aquarium

He went off once more across the Jordan, to the place where John had been baptizing from the beginning, and he stayed there.

John 10:40

A little while back our aquarium started getting dirtier and greener day after day, and I wasn’t sure why. So I scooped out some water, took it to the local experts at The Reef, and had it tested. The nice knowledgable lady there told me that the H2O was quite high in nitrates, which means we were either overfeeding the fish, and thus, too much food was falling to the bottom and getting gross, or there was just a lot of fish poo in there from not changing the water enough. The prescription I was given was to do a 50% water change every week for about four weeks, and I should see things go back to normal and become clear again. And that is exactly what I did, changing half the water (instead of the normal 10-20%) every Saturday. After the first week–nothing. Still green and dirty. But, this was not terribly surprising, as I was told it would take a month or so. Week two: still no visible change. Hmmm, I thought for sure I’d see some change, a little more clarity. OK, I’ll keep with the program, trusting the expert, and the process prescribed. And it was after the third water change…that I saw only the slightest improvement. Well, maybe. It might have just been my optimistic imagination, since later in the day it really didn’t look much different than before. It looked much like the one in the picture above.

BUT! Three days later, after that third water change, I walk downstairs to take a look and see this:

I kid you not. It went looking from like the one in that picture at the top, to this actual photo of our aquarium totally clear. There was no incremental change, but a sudden clarity overnight in the third week. It was the coolest thing, and had me rejoicing like a little aquatic dork.

Many lessons and metaphors came to mind.

First off, I felt reminded to simply keep doing what you know you’re supposed to be doing. Even if you don’t experience immediate discernible growth, or notice a major leap forward every single day, keep persevering in what you know is healthy and right. Go back to the basics often, and keep it simple. I know that I need to stay in constant prayer, to immerse myself in Holy Scripture, serve others in need, obey the voice of the Spirit, and participate in mutual sharpening with other believers. I simply need to keep doing these wonderful things if I am to grow as a human being and closer to Christ. Ultimately, stay with what got you to a good place–the Lord–not methods or strategies, but Spirit.

Second, the process and results don’t always go the way you think they will go. I expected the tank to gradually clear up every week for about four weeks when it would then look the way it was before it became Dirty Greenville. That’s not the way things went down. There was no visible change for three weeks, then poof! Stay with doing what you know is good, even if things don’t go the way you think they should, or the way you prefer.

Third, it is wise to look to those who have gone before and know what they’re talking about. As a starting point, it is good to trust the trustworthy guides rather than guessing or Googling.

Fourth, when the aquarium was clear, not only could I again see all the fish inside, I could see all the way through to the other side. I could see the wall behind the aquarium. As we persevere in our pursuit of intimacy with God, we will more and more have the vision of eternity, seeing through this short life into our eternal one. We will live with the perspective of our eternal home rather than be tied down to the cares of this life. As has been said, you’re dead a lot longer than you’re alive.

I came across John 10:40 some weeks later, and was really struck by it, and how it related to this experience for me. Even Jesus went back to a starting point of sorts, to where someone who went before him began. Perhaps this is a lesson for us to return to where our life in Christ began. To never forget what–who–saved us. I love those four words “and he stayed there.” Sometimes we just need to stay put, be still, recognize who God is, and listen. Simply listen to the Spirit of Jesus. To catch the wind in a sailboat, you put up the sails and wait. You don’t jump out of the boat and start swimming.

Is there something you’ve strayed from or been neglecting that you need to return to?

Is there a place you need to stay so that you can receive what you need from God before moving on?