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be fish

So often we are too full of what we think should be happening to us in our spiritual formation to notice what God is actually teaching us. We must be still enough, simple enough, humble enough, to let him plan the course, and use whatever opportunities there may be for our instruction.

We must not think as we progress in prayer everything will necessarily become much more overtly holy. What it will become is more simple, more humble, more actual.

St. Ambrose gave his congregation some very good advice. Using the old Christian symbol, he compared them in this stormy world to fish swimming in the sea. And to them too he said: “Be a fish.” We must learn how not to be swamped by the situations that we find ourselves in. We must learn how to get through them with a minimum of damage, and a maximum of profit.

One aspect of this is simply learning to get through situations, and not always to want to take them with us. There is a story told of two monks in Japan, “traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling. Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection. ‘Come on, girl,’ said Tanza at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud. Okito did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. ‘We monks don’t go near females,’ he told Tanzan, ‘especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?’ ‘I left the girl there,’ said Tanzan. ‘Are you still carrying her?’ “

We must learn to pass through situations like a fish, rather than carrying them all with us like a snail. We should certainly emerge with a little bit more experience of life, there is no need to carry more with us than we have to—each situation carries quite enough trouble with it by itself!

—From Prayer by Simon Tugwell

Tugwell presents a beautiful concept that is not always popular with us modern-day Christians. It’s this whole idea of our being “fish” that doesn’t always sit well.  We want to believe we were designed and built to thrive and fulfill our own destinies—in our own strength—all while still conveniently living under the protection and “influence” of Christ.  But we “fish” are also suffocating under the pressures of life’s sometimes muddy or turbulent waters.

I wonder if fish panic and fret over muddy or turbulent waters?

I wonder if fish think, “something is wrong!” when they encounter any kind of threat?

I wonder if fish would rather live their existence in a sterile environment of privileged perfection (i.e. the aquarium) without stretching, challenges, or even mystery. Or would they rather brave the vast and wild uncertainty of rivers, lakes, and seas?

St. Ambrose was definitely onto something worth pondering.

“Be fish!” —MDP

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Christi-An
    June 18, 2021 at 1:21 pm

    Ooh man thanks for sharing as this is perfect timing I had a tumble mis hap with my client yesterday and so so thankfully God allowed the cement to be a lot softer then it looks by her not being bed bound in a hospital right now!!!! Thank you Abba for your kindness!!! But this is a good reminder not to carry the excess baggage with me!! But Insted leave it on the cement out side!!! Be a FISH!!! 😁

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