Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Great Fish Story - the big picture

Sam’s True Fish Story

My son Samuel had a fish he called K.C. It was a goldfish he got when he was three. It cost him 25 cents. When the cashier sold him the fish she asked what the fish’s name was. Sam stood on tip toe as he slid his nickels and pennies and one dime to her, and declared decidedly that the fish’s name was K.C. “Casey?” she asked. No, K – C! he responded.

So K.C. joined the family. Sam sang to his fish. The fish wiggled. Sam told stories to the fish. The fish wiggled. Sam showed the fish pictures in his books. The fish wiggled. The fish didn’t do much, but it sure was good at wiggling. Sam loved it (that’s because he wasn’t the one who had to change the smelly fish bowl).

One morning I passed by the fish bowl and found him belly-up. It was bound to happen. Goldfish just never have been lucky with me, which is purely unintentional. I harbor no malice toward goldfish. (I think, perhaps, the water was too cold when I refilled the bowl after changing it the night before.) But why couldn’t it have happened when the affection Sam felt had worn off a little?

When Sam came in, I told him as gently as I could that K.C. had died. He didn’t get it. It was Sam’s first encounter with death, and I was having a tough time explaining the finality of K.C.’s position without making it seem so…. final. I was pleased that Sam was taking it so well, until he asked if he could feed K.C. and make him wiggle. No, I said, we need to take him out and bury him (I certainly didn’t dare flush Sam’s friend down the toilet), and maybe today we could get a new fish.

That’s when it hit him. His eyes got wide, his lips tightened, and his little face paused before crumpling before my eyes. His little body collapsed into my arms as he began to weep. I never knew so young a child could feel so deeply the pain and sorrow my little Sam was feeling. We sat on the couch for nearly two hours while he sobbed and questioned and sobbed some more. I tried to comfort him. I held him close. I rocked him and talked to him. His cries quieted into little bursts, then little whimpers, then little uneven breaths, and finally he fell asleep. He had worn himself out crying over a 25 cent fish.

I remember thinking what an insignificant thing that fish was, really, in the grand scheme of things. I remember thinking that maybe – just maybe – Sam was overreacting. But it broke my heart to see him hurting so much. And I wept along with him – not for the loss of his fish, but for the pain he felt. If he only knew what I knew. If he only could see the big picture….

And then I remembered Lazarus. Christ sorrowed with Lazarus’ sisters at the news of his death. Yet he knew the big picture. He knew Lazarus would live again. And – better yet – he knew that someday Lazarus (and everyone else) would live forever. Yet Christ comforted those who sorrowed and helped them through their pain. And, yes, he brought Lazarus back to mortality. And because of Christ, someday we will all be brought to immortality. Christ knows the big picture. He knows also our pain. He is the great physician and he will heal our sorrows, if we let him. He may not bring back the dead fish, but he can heal the wounded heart. He will hold us, and lead us through the grief.

A 25 cent fish and a 3 year old boy opened wider my understanding of the love Christ has for us. Now that’s a great fish story.

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