I thought I had sufficient experience in taking care of fish tanks, yet found myself mystified one day. Some of catfish were dying.  As quickly as I replaced the dead ones, the new arrivals suffered the same fate.

I asked the owner of a pet shop what it could be. He happened to be a marine biologist. He explained how changing the water of an aquarium not only removes dirt and grime, but essential bacteria culture that sustain aquatic life. If you don’t replace this bacteria, the fish die ingesting their own toxic waste as it mixes with the food bits that settle into the gravel below. The good bacteria neutralize the fish’s body waste.

This insight helped me see my spiritual journey in a new light.  Like good bacteria we need grace.  Without it we perish in the toxicity of our own self-contempt since we cannot fulfill our own high standards — even less God’s holy ones.  Statistics say 80% of psychiatric patients are religious (Fitchett, Burton, & Sivian, 1997) to the point of pushing themselves off the edge.

The Christian faith isn’t meant to pull us down into despair and loathsomeness, but to raise us up toward health, strength and everlasting hope.  Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he said,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” — Matthew 11: 28-30

~ vincenzo