Due to all the life changes going on, I have found the little things to teach me significant truths. This post is the first of many lessons I've learned while being engaged, attending college, and splitting my life in the city and the suburbs. Some of these lessons may seem pretty musing, but I'm sure most of them will have some significant point. So, may be we begin. Lesson number one: Don't forget about your random college animals.
1. Feed your fish
While nannying this past Spring I decided to buy a fish for a few reasons: the beta was purple, the kids thought it was the coolest fish ever, I couldn’t have a kitty, and I wanted to name something "Princess Anna" due to Frozen fever. AKA, a list of unnecessary excuses to want a live thing in a dorm room.
Any way, a few months went by and every time I went into the grocery store, I mean every grocery store, I found that Chicago only seems to supply cat and dog food. Well, I guess cats are the most important animals after all, ignore the dog part. Due to the importance of cats, feeding my fish got put on the back side.
That poor fishy, poor princess Anna. The water level dropped, the tank got dirty, yet princess Anna lived on. I would walk in to my apartment after being gone for four days and cringe as I walked up to the fish tank and tap hoping to see signs of life. Then all of a sudden, there she was. Slightly hard to see through the murky water but she wasn’t floating. That fishy toughed it out every time.
Side note: Now don't think I'm an animal killer. In fact, I love animals very much. And my lack of feeding my fish really isn't the point of the story, so don't get horrified by the fish part and keep reading in order to get the point.
Thanks to an intelligent mother who told me to go to Target, (oh yeah! duuuhh), I was able to find some nourishment for Princess Anna. I was so anxious to feed my fishy that instead of what I thought was tapping on the can of food dumped in a pile of red-produced-nourishment-leafy-stuff that cover the whole top of the tank. My mom warned me that the fish would probably kill itself by over eating because it was starved. Heading her warning, I knew I had to get the Princess Anna out of there before she ate herself to obesity which would lead to death. I quickly went to the bathroom for a much over-do water change and life saving procedure.
Thus unfolded a catastrophic life event for Anna: getting her out of the tank. Honestly, I'm surprised that Princess Anna didn't die from simply the excitement of the water change because she's been sitting there so lifeless for so long. She had probably gotten very used to her circumstances and forgot what life was like, you know, a normal happy life of normal water and regular feeding. The fish was determined to stay in the nastry tank but I forced her into the white cup because I was only doing what was best. I'm pretty sure she thought her life was over after sitting in the white disposable cup for so long while I scrubbed the tank. But I was only doing what was needed to be done.
After the tank was entirely clean and her buddy Squirt-the-Statue was put back in place, Anna was able to leave the white surroundings and enter into what seemed like a whole new tank. The fishy that I thought may be dying from lack of food, poor water, and excitement of events all of a sudden began to dance around in clean water, and I imagine, singing beautiful songs. Even more, soon after she was transported to her spot in the living room she was given food. The right amount of food this time. Her dancing stopped and she slowly swam to the top of the tank, starring. In my mind Anna's reaction was a mini replication of the moment the Israelites received manna -- such bewilderment. She inched closer and closer to the food then mustered up the courage to take the smallest bite, then another, then the dancing began once again coupled by taking dives from the bottom of the tank to the top for another bite of heavenly food. Princess Anna had entered paradise.
What's the point of all of this mumble jumble, insignificant life of a fish that I endearingly call Princess Anna? You see, it's the small things that God uses to make Biblical truth's and theology come to life.
In the middle of a chaotic life, I have often felt I was sitting in a tank that was engulfed by dirty water just trying to find air. I have felt like I am swimming in the messiness of what I started but may never be able to finish, or at least not finish well. I feel as though wedding planning may never end. That maybe relationships will always be murky and that there is nothing I can do about it. Possibly there is no point to what I am studying at school and God can't really use it to bring him glory - what am I wasting my time for?!
However the Lord showed me something through this insignificant moment in the life of a fish. As a human trapped in the tank of life I need to react as if I was a fish trapped in the messiness of my tank, like Princess Anna. Although she wasn't really given a choice, Princess Anna trudged on. As far as I know, there was no complaining. That fish didn't kill itself over anxiety. She didn't bang herself against the tank walls trying to get her owners attention. She simply waited with patience trusting that I was going to take care of her.
The question begs, is that the way I react when I feel as though life is too disorganized and too messy to understand what God is doing? Do I wait patiently in the murk, knowing that he will see me through? You see, Princess Anna waited and was in turn overjoyed when her tank was clean and was given food. She was blessed beyond what I'm sure was her comprehension (I know its just a fish, but go with me here).
And as I washed the insignificant fish's tank and watched her dance, the Lord quietly whispered to my spirit, be patient, my Ashlyn. If I take care of the animals of this earth, how much more do I care for you? Wait on me. Find joy in me. And know that I am right here watching you trying to find life in your murk. Come to me, I will take care of you and your water will be made clean, my son already did that for you on the cross. You are my daughter in this tank of life that I created for you. Trust in me, I will make you full of life with with nourishment each day.
Thank you Lord, for the life of a fish. You have "...used the foolish things to confound the wise..." 1 Corinthians 1:27. If a fish can trust in me, how much more should I trust in you? Also, as you take care of me, I'll take care of Anna. I'll feed my fish, I promise.
If you have thought that I am crazy for being engaged at the age of twenty, you wouldn't be the first. In fact, I would be the first one to admit to the nuttiness of mine and Jake's journey thus far.
This is something I've wanted to write about for awhile, but I was not sure if it had the proper place in the public web-world. However, the Lord has shown Jake and I that he has us on a journey that was not meant to be private, but to be shared so that Christ may receive glory.
God changes your plans... Lets put it this way. I came to Moody Bible Institute dead set that I would not become a typical "Moody" and get my MRS. certificate before I graduate. But here I am, preparing to do exactly what I set out not to do-- Wasn't my plan perfect, Lord?! Through much prayer on both ends, it was obvious that Christ was bringing Jake and I together through a passion to serve Him. As conversations deepened in the early stages of our friendship, God had clearly been doing a work in both of our hearts separately which ultimately brought us together. The Holy Spirit was confirming this relationship even if I intended to have my plan and my way.
But God is ultimately sovereign, and this is His life to be lived through me, a mere clay vessel. When I listen, he can shape, mold, and direct me on to paths that are far greater than my plan could have ever been. Praise HIM.
God takes us all on different journeys... If there was a detailed blue print map of how life should be lived in order to get to heaven perfectly to follow "God's will", let's just say I'm sure they would be out of print. All though this doesn't exist, for some reason it seems that everyone tries to force their own made-up blue print map on to every one else. Maturing in Jesus has taught me that the only map given includes only these things: to love Christ above all else, the commandments clearly marked out in scripture, and to listen to the Holy Spirit for the rest.
All this to say, there is not a formula for dating, courting, talking, casualling, friendshipping, brothering/sistering, or whatever other methodology our post-modern church has designed for Christians to supposedly make it to marriage successfully. Because if you don't follow the right one, you won't make it there properly (insert sarcasm). But, there is an act of loving Christ above all else and there is a complete surrender of every part of your love life to Him and there is a Holy Spirit full of wisdom and discernment that knows better than any self-help book. That's all on that subject.
Following God's commands is more pressing than following cultural norms... This may be one of the most vital things I have learned, and thus, I have to say it again, in different words maybe: following the commands of God should be the primary concern of Christ followers rather than following whatever social norm is insisted, commanded, expected, and twisted within the culture. What am I saying? I am saying that God's commands are clear in scripture. There is an intimacy within relationships (spiritually, emotionally, and physically-note all three) that was only intended to take place within marriage. God's commands to either remain celibate or pursue marriage are emphasized through Paul's writings. He's really not joking around in 1 Corinthians 7. What does this mean? Jake and I had to pray seriously about our "love life" and where God was leading us. We're not just playing house, and should not continue in such a way. We often face the question and reply: just because culture says you have to be out of college and making X amount of money before you can pursue marriage, is that what the Bible's standards are? We don't recall him talking about college... age... careers... but he does talk about living by faith and surrendering to Him. Don't succumb to society. Succumb to Christ.
I am sure to have many more thoughts to come, but for now, let's just say Jake and I doing our best daily to glorify Christ through our failures, insecurities, callings, mission, successes, craziness, and every step in-between. We are young and we are wildly and fearlessly loving the life that the Lord has given to us. Another rant about our relationship is sure to come, but for now, thank you for your love and support as Jake and I venture to fully devote our lives and service to Christ.
Blessings from yet another crazy twenty-year-old engaged Bible college chick.
I like to talk.