It began with routine, the normal cleaning of his tank. And all miracles and tragedies begin this way—in the ordinary grime and rhythm of pedantic life.
But today, the status quo shifted. The smallest nudge rivets vase and sends it shattered across counter and floor. His little world crashes, but he is safe, roaming the neighbourhood of a kitchen bowl. Does he know that all has fallen to pieces, that shards of his small realm slit Owner’s hand and draw liquid pain—a clean laceration leaking life? Does he care that his realm cannot be restored, that a new world must be purchased for him to keep living? No, he floats oblivious to the reality outside his three-cups-of-water existence.
And don’t we insulate ourselves, so we are not touched by the crashes, the cuttings, the cataclysmic upsets of our world? Don’t we cushion and distance and Styrofoam-peanut ourselves into a protected living coffin . . . . safe from the dangers of life? All the while, we ignore the pathetic un-life of our existence.
Sometimes, whether on purpose or “accident”, our perfectly sufficient, boringly normal lives require deep shaking, so we realize that it is not circumstances that define our reality, but Redemption.
And so it happens, that in the transfer to the newly purchased world, he falls. Falls utterly. Out of water and hand and bowl and all that’s remotely familiar. Falls through suffocating air into a mausoleum—sink drain encloses him on every side, Owner unable to grasp his wriggling mass, he flails onto sieve, suspended, trapped, sentenced to die in the void.
Owner scrambles for tools, to wrest free the drain nuts. He runs water, washing the victim with life. Finally loosened, the opened drain reveals a terrible problem: two sieves separated by an impenetrable distance, and the dying pet stranded on the further rack.
And what else can be done for the helpless one? Water now spills into bucket under the sink, defacing the immaculate scene. The carnage waits hopeless and still. He will die. He will rot. His corpse eased through the sieve holes by eventual decomposition. And all seems lost. Owner says goodbye and walks away.
But in the minutes where life ebbs out, LIFE reawakens. And he stirs, perhaps shuddering at inevitable fate looming. But it is enough. Owner sees the struggle, and ignites into furious rescue. Running upstairs to find different tools, rushing back, heedless of the mess and danger; bending low to bring freedom.
And he is found! Owner reaches him, grabs him, and it hurts utterly, but brush with LIFE can hurt more than brush with DEATH.
And he is SAFE . . . though he cannot know it yet. Owner places him in new tank, and he lays dazed and weak in the sweet embrace of water. Paralyzed by terror, ache, and hope realized, he remains immobile. But his gills begin fluttering, and vitality courses miniature in his frame.
Owner puts the world back together, and waits. And Owner sleeps sound, and rescued one rests to life again. And in the morning, he devours offered food, and flourishes his plume in this new world.
And all returns to normal . . . but all has completely changed. And life cannot look the same, because the vase is different, because blood was lost, because tragedy struck and redemption rescued, and life was meant to be lived in this wonder.
Thomas is a Beta fish, but his life teaches. And him simply living and eating and swimming happy shows off his owner’s goodness. The difference between us and him isn’t so much circumstance or genus . . . it’s choice.
We have CHOICE to sing for our Maker. And Redemption ignites our forever song.
Photos courtesy of Owner