Fishbowl Faithfulness – Part I

May this series of blog posts serve as a tool of reflection, preparing us to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving around our annual feast on November 24. May it also alert us to the call of God to offer our very lives to Him as a daily sacrifice of thanksgiving. As such, please consider this series as an occasion for preparation and response, almost like an “Advent” liturgy for Thanksgiving. For this purpose, reflective questions for the family are included following each part. “Family” should be understood as those with whom we share life, so whether single, married, a child, or an adult, we all share life with somebody to some extent. Everything that appears in these posts comes from our own heart as a family sharing life with others, where we have struggled and surrendered and sacrificed in order to continue thriving in the reality of fishbowl faithfulness. For the purposes of this series, a “fishbowl” refers to a focused life of hearing and obeying the Father in His mission. It involves being known and truly knowing others through authentic community. Such a lifestyle finds contentment within limits of time, space, and relationships, avoiding distractions and discontented yearning for “greener pastures,” though the hope for resurrection keeps increasing. We enter and remain in the fishbowl through repentance and sacrifice, because of the joy set before us…

We might expect that an inspiring call to faithfulness would call us out of our fishbowl existence to experience the world and all it has to offer us. After all, to live in a fishbowl would confine us and expose our privacy. Both confinement and constant community run counter to our internal and implicit values that isolate us under the pressure of our North American culture’s unceasing quest for “more” – more of anything and everything.

In contrast to, how might the call of the Father’s draw us to return to the fishbowl, in order to see all that His kingdom offers to others, including us, within the “limitless confines” of a life focused on His faithfulness. The “others” that are ready to hear His call exist on the margins, and we easily swim right past them unless the call to kingdom faithfulness constrains our life.

Tragically, for some time, a broad representation of Church culture in the United States has flopped around in panic-stricken and busy living, having “escaped,” or “progressed,” beyond the confines of fishbowl faithfulness, since such a life appeared small and limiting from a human perspective. We have chased bigger and better, with justifications that seem wise on the surface, but a deeper dive into our hearts reveals a twist. This twist first confronted the human heart, within the confines of the garden. Yet within those confines, humans lived under a commission to fill and subdue the earth – a paradox only made possible through fellowship with the Creator Himself. However, this evil twist turned the humans from union with the Creator and one another toward unlimited power through pleasure and knowledge to conquer more of creation, by eating of the tree that was off-limits. This self-ward twist, rooted in the way of the evil one, separates humans from fellowship with their Creator, including the innocence, honor, and power that abound within the limits of such freedom. As a result, and perhaps without realizing it, our hearts ache for a return to fishbowl faithfulness.

As has been true throughout time, it remains easy to decry the dishonorable and destructive beliefs and behaviors that characterize the culture outside of the fishbowl. Yet we can contribute to the problem. When we live outside of the fishbowl, we live among the broken shards of glass without a hopeful alternative to hold out to others. For example, it appears increasingly difficult to find anybody, in or out of the Church, who is not “too busy.” Likewise, it is difficult to find anybody, in or out of the Church, who is not burdened by their finances. This occurs even though the wealth throughout our land, even for the most average of its citizens in difficult economic times, represents more than most of this world has ever seen. Further, in or out of the Church, addictive behaviors seem to increase more and more as they displace healthy relationships. The brokenness of the family has become a battle cry for many in the Church, but without fishbowl faithfulness, we find that our families do not thrive either.

Whether building the ark, rebuilding the wall, or restoring the Temple, two things seem sure. The redemptive and restorative process requires obedience over time, and resistance will persist on all sides, from both in and out of the Church. The good news holds that a return to the fishbowl is possible, yet it costs more than we could imagine or even pay ourselves. It requires sacrifice well beyond our zones of personal comfort. Yet such sacrifice pales in comparison to the joy before us – a promise to live before our King in a restored culture of innocence, honor, and humility (the position of “power” in His kingdom).

Questions for reflection:

  • How would we describe our first reaction to the concept of being faithful in a “fishbowl”?
  • How can our life as a family reflect the paradox-made-possible (of rest and focus in the midst of living out an impossible mission) through God’s presence?
  • What stands in the way of long-term obedience for our family?

Watch for Part II, where we will explore our culture of “choice,” and how this impacts and relates to fishbowl faithfulness.

With gratitude,

Mark, Kristin, Caleb, Jacob, and Rachel Coté

Missionaries of Discipleship and Development based in Pucallpa, Peru (see the most recent post that we wrote)

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