The Fishbowl Syndrome

Written by: Conny Varga

We are creatures of habit. Of comfort. Of mindless routine. We love the security of a predictable life. We are happy hanging out with people who are just like us, who think and feel and live like us. We find satisfaction in following to-do lists and placing checkmarks beside the “good deed for the day”.

When Jesus lived among humanity, He was anything but all that. In fact, He had some pretty critical comments reserved for people whose lives were marked by outward, mindless routine. And with good reason: The Gospel does not fit into that mold. The Gospel is radical, unconventional, even scary. There is no predictability in how God will choose to act in a person’s life, how He will choose to open our eyes to His truth, and how He will choose to involve us in His Kingdom work. The only constant factor in it all is God Himself, and His redemptive work of salvation on the cross.

Maybe you are like me. I love serving God, as long as it’s on my terms and I feel fairly comfortable about the task set before me. I like staying in my own little box, and I expect God to fit into that box as well. I like calling this box a fishbowl. Have you ever watched a fish – or group of fish – in a fishbowl? It’s kind of boring, isn’t it? We shake our heads at how mindlessly they just swim in circles, over and over.

But aren’t we the same? We love the comforts of our little sandcastle, the fake plant, the other fish that are forever around us. And we are busy, oh so busy, swimming in circles, doing the same things day after day and never changing.

Jesus called us to change radically! He urges us to leave our old, boring, meaningless life behind, and He offers freedom and purpose in return! In a way, He made a pathway out of our little fishbowl into the great sea, and all we have to do is to swim through that pathway to get to it. But the sea is scary, it’s big, and it’s unpredictable. Do we keep swimming back to the safety of our little bowl? I know I do!

I believe we can even view church that way. We love the comfort of our fishbowl called church. We love the other fish in the bowl with us, we love how we do church, and we are happy and content within the four walls of our church. If a stray fish or two from the great sea happen to come really close to our little fishbowl, we even go as far as inviting them into our circle of fish, telling them how great life inside the bowl is.

So then why did Jesus command us to “go and tell”, to “go to the ends of the earth and make disciples of all nations”? Because He knew that the Gospel could never be contained within the walls of a structure, within the security of routine and rules. God’s work on this earth is vast and varied, and Jesus knew that the only way we can truly be effective disciples is if we venture out of our little world into His big wide world, see the world around us the way He sees it, and follow Him everywhere He goes.

Let’s encourage each other to break out of our detrimental habits and routine, to “be” the church, not just go to church, and to go out there and get involved in God’s redemptive work on this earth. There is so much to learn, so much to do, so much to pray for, so much to grow. Be a fish who is not afraid to swim against the current, who is not afraid to follow Jesus out into the great sea and become a “fisher of men” instead of just a fishbowl maintenance guy. Then encourage your friends to do the same! We can be a “school of fish” who can accomplish much for our Lord if we only venture out!