A Note from Jessie – Covenant Newsletter, April 2021

The fish was floating upside down in the glass bowl. It might as well have had a cartoon X over each eye. “Sharky-Sharky,” the fish, was dead.

It was the first pet we had ever bought for our young children, so there was a certain sentimentality we felt for the bright blue Beta that likely surpassed the average distant tolerance most people feel for a fish.

“Well, lovebugs,” I said with a sigh to my then three-year-old son and two-year-old daughter, “looks like our pal Sharky-Sharky has gone on to bluer waters.”

Two pairs of eyes looked quizzically back at me.

“Sharky has gone to fish heaven!” I offered more enthusiastically.

Blink. Blink.

Hmm. My children did not appear to understand this part of the life cycle yet. Had I somehow failed in teaching them the basic concept of life and death? Shoot. I looked back at the bowl. It was almost ridiculous how lifeless that fish looked.

“The fish is dead. It is not alive anymore. Bye bye, Sharky-Sharky,” I said more plainly, adding in a waving gesture, hoping to leave no more room for confusion.

“Wha happen to him?” asked the blonde haired boy, head tilting, eyebrows furrowing in efforts to comprehend.

“Well, I believe it may have been so chilly overnight that sadly Sharky’s water became too cold for him to live by our kitchen window. I am so sorry, buddy.” I hugged their little bodies close. “Should we give him a funeral?” I offered.

The two toddlers were suddenly in firm agreement against this idea. Two small heads shook back and forth in a decisive “No way, José” response. “He is NO bye bye!” they insisted.

I instinctively pulled the “well, let’s just wait until Daddy gets home and then figure it out…” card. All seemed appeased.

During naptime, I googled the scene from Finding Nemo where they talk about how all drains go to the ocean. I prepared a small bouquet of dandelions. I pulled up biblical verses to share. I even searched for anything in scripture about animal deaths that might be helpful. Do fish have souls? Do animals go to heaven? I might have even googled these questions, too… I was a new mom, and I was realizing that I had not explained the facts of life and death clearly enough to my young children. So, what can I say? I was trying.

That afternoon, as the sun’s bright rays illumined the walls of our home with its late-day-slant, two rested toddlers arose from their naps. Questions about Sharky promptly began.

How exactly did he die?
What was going to happen to him?
Where was his body going?
He was not going to be in his bowl any more?!?

And then down came the tears. It had taken them a moment, a whole nap-cycle in fact, but both my children had now reached a decision: They were going to miss Sharky-Sharky!

He was our only pet!
How could we have let him get so cold?
Why did he have to die???

Okay, here is my cue, I thought. No time to wait for Daddy to come home because these children needed answers now. I took a deep breath. I felt emboldened by all of my naptime preparations to launch into a perfect moment of parenting where I would explain the facts, as well as the mysteries, of life and death. I suggested we meet in the kitchen for a family meeting.

And as we rounded that corner into the kitchen… and as I took another deep breath to begin my speech… we stopped in our tracks. Dead in our tracks. Pardon the pun.

It was Sharky-Sharky.

Blue as ever.

Small as ever.

And… ALIVE as ever.

Just swimming around his bowl with (could it be?) more fervor than ever, as if it were any other normal day.

“Sharky-Sharkyyyyyy! We knowed you alive!!” the toddlers exclaimed as they ran past their stunned mother, still holding onto the wilting dandelion bouquet in utter befuddlement.

My children delighted that day because the good side won. Life won. Miracles won. And they didn’t even question it. Miracles felt more real and way more right to them on that sunny afternoon than any hard cold fact ever could have.

And I honestly wish I felt that way more often, too. I wish I were less gobsmacked by miracles and more expectant of them. I wish I did not spend time that night googling, “Can beta fish play dead? Can fish freeze and then thaw out?” But what can I say? I was a tired and befuddled new mom whose prepared-parenting-moment had been thwarted by a miracle.

On Easter Sunday, Pastor Ryan expounded upon the stone being rolled away, reminding us that it was not for omnipotent Jesus’ sake, of course, but for ours. The stone was moved out of the way so that the disciples could see the empty tomb. After all, humans can be difficult to convince when it comes to miracles; often, in our faithlessness, we have to see in order to believe. Pastor Ryan then posed a thought-provoking question: what “stone” is blocking our path to believing today? What is standing in the way of us more fully resting in our faith?

I pondered that question for a while. Is it doubt that gets in the way of deeper faith? Pride? A doggedly stubborn reliance on data and facts? Or something more mundane like busy-ness, jadedness, or flat out weariness?

I think sometimes the answer for me can be something as banal as fatigue. When I find myself over-extended by the every-day-ness of life, I can lose sight of many things, including miracles. This life I lead, these people in my midst, this beautiful spring day, the love I witness all around, the promise of heaven– truly, marvels and wonders abound! Perhaps even the small gift of a fish’s unexpected return from the presumed dead belongs in that wondrous category. Perhaps everything does.

Dear God, may the stone be removed from eyes and rolled away from my heart so that I can remain more open and joyfully amazed by Your unceasing, miraculous goodness.  Amen


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