When God Becomes A Tropical Fish
Men, alienated from their God, behave violently. What is the value of money, beauty, and status if we believers are disconnected from deity? Why struggle to achieve happiness while we go unacknowledged by divinity? Why risk dying in service to a godly calling when we’re disconnected from the Source of everything? Alienated from God, everything—friends, family, and neighbors—is diminished because we don’t see ourselves as belonging to God and therefore don’t see ourselves as belonging to the world that we’re walking around in.
But, more courageous personal sacrifices won’t soothe our sense of unease with the Almighty. Dying in pursuit of answers to life’s most profound questions doesn’t entitle us to enormous blessings. And no amount of material good fortune can pacify the apocalyptic violence that erupts within (and from) us when the trauma and violence of every day life drive us to conclude that God is unconcerned about our physical, mental, and spiritual well being.
When our sense of alienation from God is underscored and exaggerated by daily life we behave like tropical fish when their tank is cleaned, cowering behind our fake plastic castles as the hand of an unknowable, unapproachable, unsympathetic being lays waste to a world we find unpleasant, but not worth getting killed for.
So, what’s to be done? The more we underscore the differences between divinity and us, the more brutal the sense of our alienation from God, home, family, communities, and even ourselves. This crisis of faith has battered men in every generation, driving some to despair, others to be swept away by fatalism, while still more renounce God claiming they owe Him nothing, not their fealty and certainly not their lives.
But, to return to the tropical fish analogy, God does something quite remarkable to end our alienation. He has taken the initiative in that he becomes a “tropical fish” for us. Since we cannot comprehend a Being that exists outside our definitions of space and time—a Being so powerful that to look at Him results in instant death for us—God becomes a man in space and time. In fact, as St. Paul writes to the Philippians, Jesus, even though He is fully God, gave up all godly authority and power to come in the flesh, to serve us, even serving us all the way into death, dying on a cross for our sin.
The Word of God is born. He has a birth date and a death date. Jesus is the same man as us in every way, except that when tempted He did not sin. Jesus knew poverty, sacrifice, alienation from family, friends, and community, and even God-forsakenness when He took our place on the cursed tree.
How do we bridge the divide between us and deity? How do we dispense with our pathological alienation from God? How do we see ourselves as belonging to the world that we’re walking in? We don’t, of course. We can’t end our sense of alienation from God any more than a tropical fish can take responsibility for the maintenance of its ecosystem. The opposite happened. God came to us. God became a man for us, to reveal to us who He is today and always for us.
Now, if we’re flummoxed about God, or His will, or His ways it’s because we’re not looking at the cross. Our eyes are not set on Christ Jesus’ bloody suffering and death for us. The crucified God hangs over all time and space, all of creation redeemed from sin and death by Him for us as gift freely given, beautiful and tragic.
For Christ’s sake, we are not alienated from God. We are not disconnected from the Source of everything. We are not dismal, contemptible men whose destiny is to endure torture, abuse, and betrayal at the hands of a cosmic Stromboli. Instead, Jesus crucified for the sin of the world burns a hole in reality, revealing that we live, and walk, and have our being in Him, through Him, and from Him—today and always.