The goldfish died … again. My daughter, Charlotte, won a free goldfish at the elementary school carnival. She was so excited. The “free goldfish” wasn’t really free though. We had to purchase a fishbowl, gravel for the bottom of the fishbowl, plants, a net scoop, a weird treasure chest, and a sunken ship to keep the fish entertained. Sadly, the fish expired in a couple of days. Then we made the first of several trips to the pet store for replacement “free fish.”
At first, Charlotte seemed to understand and named each of the newcomers despite a litany of tragedies. (I never told her about the one that got away through the garbage disposal while I was changing its water.) Then the day came when I brought home one last fish. Then, I held up the clear plastic bag full of water and a shiny, new goldfish. “What do you want to name it, Charlotte?”
She looked at the poor fish and asked, “Is he a Christian?”
That seemed like a strange question, so I asked, “Why do you want to know?”
“Because it’s going to die.”
We settled on calling him “Fish.” Despite our best efforts, this was a fish that refused to die. We forgot about him when we went on vacation for a week. We came home, and his bowl was cloudy and green with sludge, but Fish was fine. Nothing could stop him. I overfed him. I underfed him. Times were tough, but the harder things were, the stronger he became. Fish was the last in our chain of aquatic pets. When he finally expired after a long life in the fishbowl, I think we had a state funeral for him.
I’ve thought about Fish many times over the years. I realized Charlotte’s innocent question, “Is he a Christian?” struck at the heart of the matter. When times get tough, Christians are at their very best – even if they are living in a fishbowl!
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2 – 4)