Thursday, March 08, 2012


By Paige Terry Hamilton

There was a confused look on my eight year old
daughter’s face as she sat amongst the chaos of Christmas morning wrapping paper. In her hand she held what she had discovered inside of the gift she had just opened, nothing but a small white card on which was drawn a simple fish. Julia slowly read aloud the words that were written on the card, “What will you name me?” Her bewilderment turned into sheer delight,an enormous grin began to spread upon her face. With an excited squeal of joy she asked, ”Really, Momma? A fish?”

To say Julia was excited about owning her very first pet is a complete understatement. Her joy was nothing short of rapturous. For days she could talk of nothing else. The wait until the pet store reopened after the holidays seem to be unending. Julia’s excitement mounted as she counted down the hours until she could go and pick out her already beloved fish friend.

Finally, the day came when Julia, her two sisters and I headed out to pick out the betta fish meant to live inside Julia’s fish bowl. The car was hardly parked before Julia jumped out, raced into the pet store and hurriedly found the fish display. She nearly swooned from the excitement of seeing the multitude of tanks filled with fish of every imaginable color, shape, and size. There in the back corner was a section of shelves lined with glass bowls. In each one swam a single betta fish.

The store manager brought Julia a stool to stand on so that she could get a better look at the fish. She solemnly peered into each glass container, sometimes talking softly to the fish contained inside while other times silently stroking the sides of the bowl.

As I watched my daughter go about the serious task of choosing her pet, I began to fear that this could be a torturous process. There were so many fish from which to choose. No two were alike and it seemed to me that each one was more stunning than the one in the bowl next to it. Brilliant reds, shocking blues, soft purples, iridescent greens ... there was even a shimmery gold one with bright orange and black flecks so that it resembled something similar to a leopard print.

My 13 year old daughter Maddie spotted an unusual, soft blue betta fish with tiny black stripes. It had short, spiky fins that somehow gave it the look of a beautiful bird’s feather. She tried in vain to get her younger sister to choose this spectacular specimen, but Julia was not impressed.

Ten year old Megan pointed out a fancy betta fish, vivid red in color with extra long, fluttery fins that whipped and whorled around it in the water. The manager, who noticed Meg’s interest, said, "That's a Half Moon Betta. It's very pretty and quite popular, but also much more expensive. It costs $20." I was preparing to tell Julia that we were not going to buy the $20 betta fish, but then I realized that my littlest girl wasn't interested in this one either for she was already quite enchanted with another fish.

After a quick glance into the bowl that Julia was practically holding, I was surprised to see that the fish at which she was gazing so lovingly was without a doubt the most unremarkable in a group of dazzling fish. It was a dull in color, a pale, almost washed-out pink that had something of a flesh-toned look about it. The fins on this betta fish weren't overly long or especially wispy like some of the others in the store. Yet still, this was the only fish that my
daughter watched with rapt fascination.

Julia caught my eyes and she exclaimed, "Momma ... look! See how she follows my finger! I’ve found my fish!"

So that's how it came to pass that we took home the plainest betta fish in the store. I felt some disappointment in Julia’s final choice, but not Julia. She beamed all the way home as if she knew she had found a rare treasure among all the glittering gems. As Sushi began to settled into our home, I began to see something quite beautiful in what I originally thought was just a rather plain fish. God spoke to my heart, reminding me how He loves to use the unremarkable, the unexpected, and even the unworthy to carry out His plans.

He used an elderly man to father an entire nation of peoples, numerous as the stars, countless as the grains of sand upon the shore.

He turned the uncertain stutterer into a man who would confront a pharaoh, bring forth plagues, and lead an entire nation out of slavery.

He used the very youngest and smallest of the underdogs to overcome the impossible giant.

He found the coward hiding in the threshing barn and used him to lead a tiny ragtag army into battle to defeat their unbeatable enemy.

He took the young virgin maiden barely old enough to leave her parents and used her as the one to bring forth His perfect salvation.

And that salvation ... well, it turned out to be a babe born in a barn instead of King triumphant in battle glory.

It was this same God who called out to a few weary fishermen, with their torn and empty nets, asking them to follow, to bring His gospel to bring His gospel message of hope and peace to the far corners of the earth, so that He might turn them into fishers of men.

And He even uses the insignificant, like a small, plain fish, to remind me of forgotten truths, that His ways are not my ways. He looks beyond the obvious and sees straight into the heart of each soul. He is still calling out to the weary. He is still using the small and the weak and the scared. He is still defeating the enemy with the willing underdog and the wounded sinner. And He promises to us that He has great plans for our lives too, if only we are willing to be used for His glory.

Paige is a friend of mine I know through homeschooling and Five-in-a-Row. She lives in the heart of Cajun country in Louisiana with her husband Jon, their five children (ages 8-13), one lazy beagle and a plain betta fish named Sushi. When not climbing the endless mountain of dirty laundry, Paige enjoys encouraging women in their faith through writing and speaking. You can find more of her writings on her personal blog, Paige’s Pages.

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