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A Highly Sensitive Fish Story: It’s OK to Need a Gentle, Personal Touch

Guest Post by Elissa Starks, a highly sensitive Christian.

I am coming to the realization I have been made “quirky” for a reason. I believe now that God has made us all with so much diversity. This really hit home at a visit to an aquarium.

A consummate fish nerd, I stood in awe at the 1.3 million gallon tank in front of me. It was feeding time, and I was struck by the unique feeding habits of each inhabitant of the tank.

The tuna, weighing 500 pounds or so, are the first to snatch up the food. They bulldoze over everyone (even over the sharks, which was surprising to me.) The sharks are a soft and boneless fish and could be injured or killed by these massive tuna torpedoes, so they hang out and are sometimes fed by the end of a pole. The smaller fish and sardines then eat the crumbs that fall from the huge fish.

My personal favorite was the ray who has to be fed altogether differently. She actually waits until everyone is done and goes all the way to the surface to be fed on the end of the pole.

The commentator explained that over time she has learned to watch for their feet and go to the surface. Then, in dog-like fashion, she rolls over on her back with her tummy towards the feeders and receives her food.

It was such a beautiful picture to me of the diversity and unity within the body of Christ. Same tank, same precious food… different fish. It showed me there are those in their strength that can take the food as it comes and those that need a little more personal touch.

I saw this again on a recent trip to Hawaii. Once again at the aquarium (surprise, surprise!) and this time colors were the rule of the day. There was one particular fish called the Christmas wrasse that made my jaw literally drop. It wore an array of neon colors, some of which I had not seen in such abundance since the nineteen eighties. It was stunning.

In fact, I got the impression with some of these fish that God was purposely going over the top. The more spots, squiggles, stripes and colors, the better and yet not a hint of garishness.

I came away with the distinct impression that these fish were not necessarily more interesting or valuable than the ones elsewhere in the world. They were just different and I would not want one type without the other.

To me these fish tanks are a stark reminder of what I believe God intends for the church: diversity and unity within the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12,13). I think one of the reasons I have struggled so much over these few years – heck, over my life – is that I am more like the shark or the ray who needs a gentler touch.

I have come to the realization that some of us are just made differently and that is not a bad thing. I want to be able to swim to the depths of God and have a relationship with my Creator. I want to be able to let the tuna and other fish be themselves, and appreciate their beauty without diminishing my own.

story ©2010 by Elissa Starks. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Maile June 24, 2010, 1:00 pm

    I LOVE this! I think I must be a ray…

  • Lila June 26, 2010, 9:51 am

    This is an amazing observation. All get fed — none are left hungry. The bigger, stronger fish leave scraps for the smaller ones. Those who need special attention get it. To me, this spoke of the Good Shepherd (the good fisherd, lol?), and His care for us in all of our diversity.

    • Gail Ruth July 6, 2010, 5:32 pm

      Ha! Fisherd! That’s a good one. Thanks for the comment. I bless you.

  • Serena June 29, 2010, 5:44 pm

    LOL! I have to agree with you Gail. Sometimes I’m like the shark and other times, I’m like the ray, although I must say, I think I’ve always been the latter, with the former having come about later in my development. Not sure if the “colorful, odd-shaped fish drinking happily around the bottom of the tank” applies to me, though!

    • Gail Ruth July 6, 2010, 5:30 pm

      You never know, Serena. That happily dinking fish might still emerge in the future when you have less demands on you. I wouldn’t rule it out yet ;-)

  • Lorraine July 6, 2010, 2:39 pm

    Great visuals in this writing. I love the collections of writing on your website Gail. Always something new and interesting to read… even for the ‘less than sensitive’ type.

    • Gail Ruth July 6, 2010, 5:26 pm

      Thanks, Lorraine. I too love the visuals in Elissa’s writing.
      You may not be highly sensitive, but you are so good at bridging the more sensitive and the less sensitive worlds. I bless your ministry and your life.

  • Cody Klepac July 22, 2012, 8:07 am

    I absolutely love that you got all of this from trips to the aquarium. That makes me not feel so strange:)

  • Beth July 28, 2013, 12:43 am

    I’m new here, having just recently discovered your site. So many wonderful articles on here that speak directly to my soul! I think I am a coloured fish and definitely one who needs the gentle and almost coaxing touch. It’s nice and reassuring to know that I’m normal and God loves me as I am. Thank you so much for what you’re doing here and I know He’s going to bless you so much.