Sunday, October 3, 2010

Parable of the Yellow Tang

Thank you for your prayers. Tali was only sick for the one day.

My dad pointed out that while it’s never fun to have a sick child, in Talitha’s case, it’s good to know that her body is able to fight off bugs again. We are so grateful the Lord has heard the many prayers on Tali’s behalf and has blessed her and strengthened her.

A few months ago, I asked a friend to send me a copy of a personal story she had shared at church with the Primary children. She gave me permission to share her story in Talitha’s blog. With a little more passage of time and improved understanding sharpened by experience, I’m even more touched by this story than when I first heard it.

Here is the story:

“Many years ago my father gave my mother a large aquarium for her birthday. They decided to make it a saltwater reef tank, and after much hard work and expense finally the tank was set up and full of colorful coral and many different kinds of fish.

“There were countless colors and sizes of fish Mom could choose to put in her aquarium, but from the beginning, Mom’s favorite fish was the Yellow Tang. Yellow was always Mom’s favorite color, and from the minute she saw that large, brilliant fish in the pet store we all knew that was what we would get for the aquarium.

“Mom’s Yellow Tang was healthy and strong, and was the most beautiful fish in the tank. My father had invested in several expensive filters, lighting, and other equipment to make sure the water was clean and the fish stayed vibrant and healthy. One day, we noticed that Mom’s Yellow Tang wasn’t looking so good. He first lost some of his bright color and looked dingy, dirty yellow. Soon he stopped swimming and just hung listlessly in the water.

“Mom and Dad checked to make sure the filter equipment was working, that the temperature was correct, and everything else they could think of. All the other fish seemed healthy, but Mom’s Yellow Tang got worse and worse. Soon he had tiny black spots on his sides, and his fins drooped down.

“One morning the aquarium lights came on and we saw the Yellow Tang swimming on his side, his gills heaving. He looked like he was dying, and we didn’t know how to help him. Dad got on the phone and called the pet store and asked for the trusted fish expert who had helped us set up the tank from the beginning. Dad described what had happened to our tang. After learning that all the other fish were ok, he said our Yellow Tang had “Black Ich”. The way to help him be rid of the Ich was to give him a 15 minute “freshwater bath”. This sounded crazy because we wondered how a delicate and sick saltwater fish could live for 15 minutes in plain freshwater!?! When dad questioned this strategy, the expert said that the secret was that the Ich would die in freshwater before the Tang would. If we left the Tang in the freshwater bath long enough to kill the Ich but got him out before he died, he would be cured. It sounded crazy, but what else could we do? The fish was already close to death.

“Dad filled a large bowl with tap water and brought it down to the tank. Mom and all of us kids were gathered around nervously watching the events unfold. Dad got the net and easily caught Mom’s Yellow Tang and placed him in the bowl. Immediately the fish dropped to the bottom of the bowl, and his gills pumped desperately as the strange water filled his lungs. Mom wondered aloud if this was a good idea, but dad was looking his stopwatch and said we were going to do this as instructed for the full 15 minutes no matter what. All the kids looked at each other and thought that what we were doing was crazy, that the fish expert didn’t know what he was talking about. Put the saltwater fish in freshwater to make him better? It sure didn’t look like he was feeling better. It seemed like we were only making his death more painful.

“For ten minutes, the fish seemed to get weaker and weaker. Mom asked again if we should take him out and put him in the large saltwater tank where at least the Tang could breathe, but Dad said no, and checked his stopwatch. There were five minutes left before we could put the Tang back in the big tank. We all stood somberly around the freshwater bowl, watching the Yellow Tang die.

“After 12 minutes had passed, we saw to some astonishment that Mom’s Yellow Tang turned back upright, and was swimming. He was still breathing hard, but there appeared to be some small black spots floating in the water. He seemed to get stronger and stronger. After 15 minutes, Dad gave the ok, and Mom caught her tang in the net and gently placed him back in the saltwater tank. He stayed upright, and the black spots were gone from his sides. He was still a little pale, but after a few days he was back to normal, a brilliant yellow that caught the eye of everyone who saw the tank.”

Thank you to Julie Whiteley for this beautiful story.

I can't help but see two parallels.

The way in which the cancer experts fought Talitha's disease had me feeling like the kids in the story. How could something as crazy as putting poison in her body make Tali feel better?

And waiting the full "15 minutes" can feel like an eternity.

But the more significant parallel I see has to do with Christ and his matchless power to heal us from sin and help us through the many afflictions and challenges of life. Like in the Bible story of Naaman, the Lord has ways of cleansing us and helping us that might seem downright crazy or even bruise our pride. After all, Naaman was the captain of the host of the king of Syria and Elisha the prophet only sent a lowly servant to tell Naaman to go wash seven times in the waters of Jordan.

No fanfare of trumpets. Just simple instructions requiring faith.

And so it is with us. Most of what God asks us to do has no fancy frills, nor does it require a fancy stage production. Yet in the simplicity of Faith and Repentance are found the keys to the saving grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
And if we can just endure for those seemingly long "15 minutes", the black scales of sin and spiritual blindness that are making us sick and holding us back will fall off.
Yes, we can put complete trust in Christ!
He is the ultimate expert and knows exactly how to remove all cause of disease and save His children.