Our day started out with a death and a trash can burial. A silver-colored goldfish, named Smokey, jumped out of the aquarium at some point in the night and we found him on the floor this morning—stiff and dry. All traces of water on the hardwood floor from his unexpected arrival in our waterless world had long since dried up. Even the floor directly beneath his body was dry.
Four years ago, we purchased Smokey from a tank of mostly dead and sickly feeder goldfish. He cost us 10 cents. We had saved him, along with several others feeder fish that day. Now our rescue fish was dead, lying on the hardwood floor, dark and stiff.
Feeling sorrow for his lonely death, I picked him up by the hard tail fin, carried him into the kitchen and buried him in the trash can. At the breakfast table, my children saw and they, too, expressed sadness at his demise. After all, Smokey had lived for several years, grown to be the second largest in size, and was the only silver goldfish in the group.
During breakfast my children reminisced about Smokey while I started doing dishes. But I keep hearing the Spirit whisper to me. “Don’t give up on him yet. Don’t let him die this way. Give him a chance to live.”
You may recall the Spirit's whispering on behalf of the world's grumpiest cockatiel (see my March blog) Yet this fish was dead. This whispering was after the trauma, not before.
Then I recalled a similar fish incident years ago, when my firstborn child was only two. He decided to go ‘fishing’ in our tank and managed to catch one of the fish. When he proudly told my of his feat I looked in the tank and, sure enough, one fish was missing. I went searching for the fish. After an hour and a half I found him. He had flipped up under the couch and was dry and stiff. As I picked up my son’s ‘catch’ to throw it in the trash can I saw its gill move. Quickly I filled a bowl with water and dropped in the fish. He started breathing and went on to live for several more years.
Now, as I did the dishes, the whispering continued. “Don’t give up on him yet. Don’t let him die like this. Give him a chance to live.”
So, when my children were not looking, I retrieved Smokey from the trash can, filled up a bowl with water from his fish tank and dropped in the fish. By this time he had been in the trash can for 45 minutes and on the floor for much longer (possibly hours) yet, amazingly, he immediately responded and started to breathe.
In the photo below he has been in the bowl for half an hour and is almost completely upright.
I still didn’t tell my children—I didn’t want them to get their hopes up—so I sent them to school and continued to watch Smokey’s recovery. Within an hour he was swimming upright, though rather slowly, and I put him back into the tank.
I then went to the gym to work out. While on the treadmill my heart, and even my prayers, went out to this little fish. I don’t feel guilty praying for animals. I don't feel anyone should. I have come to know in my life that God loves all His creations, even the animals.
As I jogged I realized that Smokey had not jumped out of the tank on purpose. In the guise of ‘having a good time’ Smokey obviously went a bit too far and landed outside the safety of the water. There he found himself alone and needing help. He floundered and fought for life yet could do nothing to save himself until, finally, he succumbed to the consequences of his actions.
And then I thought of those people I know and I saw a gospel parallel. Often, in the guise of ‘having a good time,’ people go a bit too far and land outside the safety of the living water of the gospel. They break the commandments, they don’t feel they need to be in Church, but they are floundering and, soon enough, they will face the full effects of their actions. They can't save themselves. None of us can. That's why we all need Christ yet, if someone isn’t physically there to help those struggling in this life, the consequences can result in spiritual death, the drying up of a testimony and the stiffening of a soul.
We all know and love people like that. Maybe we see them and feel they are, somehow, too far gone to help. We may have even mentally placed them in the trash can of life, claiming they are gone for good.
Yet “Don’t give up on him yet” is powerful advice for all of us! The Lord runs on a different timetable. He doesn't care how long we've lain spiritual dead or even been in the trash can of life. He just wants someone to pull out each precious soul and give them a chance to live. There is no one so far gone, or so long gone that the Savior cannot yet reach them. We just have to keep trying. We should never give up on anyone!
And the Spirit also taught me another truth. By not telling my children that I had placed Smokey back into a bowl of water, I thought I was protecting them from disappointment in case he should die later. What the Spirit told me was that I had cut my children and Smokey off from the power of prayer. That was not a door for me to close for anyone or anything.
So, as I ran on the treadmill this morning I prayed for those friends of mine outside of the living water of the Gospel. If the Lord clearly tells me to not give up on a goldfish, I know He does not want me to give up on them!
I also prayed for forgiveness for not allowing my children to tap into the greatest power they possess…the power of prayer. I asked that my lesson to learn be mine alone, without Smokey or my children suffering.
And, so far, the Lord heard those prayers. Smokey is swimming with more strength and his fins are starting to open again. And my children have seen a miracle.
Great miracles and lessons often come in little packages.
Smokey, front and center, back in the tank where he belongs.