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

Guest Post by Elissa Starks

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.