My man has some tropical fish that he is raising, breeding, selling and enjoying in our basement which has been turned into his “fish room.” These fish are called Discus and they have a unique way of raising their young.
First off, the parents are an actual pair, meaning they have chosen to be together much like a husband and wife. Together, they prepare a place to raise their young by cleaning and area of the tank. She then lays the eggs while he watches and then he follows behind her and fertilizes the eggs. Then they begin their vigil of watching over their eggs and fanning them with their fins to supply the eggs with fresh, moving water and oxygen. When the fry hatch, the parents will individually pick up each fry in their mouths and delicately move them to a clean area of the tank. Together they watch their young until they are free-swimming. Then, the fry instinctively know to go to their parent’s side where they will feed on a slime-coating that their parents create on their sides to feed their babies. This isn’t always easy on the parents, as sometimes these little babies will continue to feed and cause harm to the sides of the parents. Through all that pain, the parents will continue to do this and offer protection for their young until their babies are able to eat and care for themselves. It is a beautiful picture of a loving family.
I have watched my man have great success in the breeding and raising of these fish. But there have been good days and bad days for this fish farmer. We have watched as the parents have neglected the eggs. And we have seen the “nature of the beast” as the parents have eaten the fry before they had a chance to survive on their own.
With great patience, my man has learned which parents he can trust with the raising of their young, and which ones can produce but do not have the capabilities of raising their young past the laying of the eggs. It doesn’t seem right, but for some reason, whether it be immature parents or fear in the environment, this has been the outcome at times.
But through trial and error, my man has found that sometimes the parents know how to produce but just can’t adequately care for the young. So he tried putting these fragile little ones into the tank of some successful parents to see they would foster them. Then he sat on pins and needles to see if it would work. And you know what? IT DID! These foster parents have taken in what is not theirs, sacrificially giving to them, and raised them to a place that they can survive on their own.
To me this is a wonderful picture of what the church is. When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus responded with two. Matthew 22:36-40 says, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
He didn’t say to love your family as yourself. Why? Not sure. But I have a theory….
He has instilled in each of us the natural desire to love those He has put us with, namely our family. He has instilled in me a natural affection for my children. I do not have to be forced to love them. I do not even have to try. It comes naturally. It is a given that parents will nurture their children, or at least it is supposed to be. When there are those exceptions that happen when parents do not nurture like they should, whether it is physically, mentally or spiritually, this is when the church needs to follow that commandment of Jesus. We are to love the ones that are both lovable and unlovable, our neighbors.
I may have parents and siblings who have loved and nurtured me physically and mentally, but they have led me astray spiritually. This is where my so-called foster family has stepped in. In a way, I guess, I have had many foster families. They have been there to spiritually provide for me in numerous different ways. They have loved me through their families and traditions. They have loved me through their examples of what it is to truly walk a Godly life. They have taught me how to truly study the Bible. But more than all that, they loved me enough to lead me to Jesus.
It is almost as if God has been the fish keeper of this little fry. He looked down at me and saw what was lacking in my upbringing and said, “This little one needs to be with THIS family,” and He dropped me into their tank and they stepped in. They fanned me with the life-giving breath of life from Him and kept me by their side, and they have never let go.
Now my foster family stands me and encourages me to step out in faith of what He is calling me to. They are the ones on the front row as I speak, saying, “That’s my girl!” My Mom was not there for me that day, but my spiritual Mama was. They are the ones standing with me and praising God with me as my kids are baptized saying, “Those are my kids!” Their Grandma and Grandpa were not there that day, but their spiritual grandparents and aunts and uncles were.
They have stepped in where others stepped out.
They have been where my real parents and family have not been.
You know who you are…my foster moms and dads and siblings. You are my precious gift and you truly exemplify what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.
Thank you for loving me.
You have raised me well.