A fish out of water
by Terry Camsey, Major –
One of our regular activities these days is a trip to the gym. I can’t say it’s something that comes naturally, or even easily, but I am committed to doing my best to stay in shape—so off we go.
I don’t ever like to waste time however, so I always take a book to read while on the treadmill. It’s so boring just looking out of the window at the swimming pool and it’s a golden opportunity to improve my education as I burn off the calories.
You see some interesting people at a gym. Ray, for example, comes in regularly. Goes straight for an exercise cycle (must be the same one every time!), stays no more than five minutes, then he’s off. Another diminutive lady also uses a cycle and adjusts the saddle as low as it will go. Quite a shock when someone of more regular size goes to sit on it without realizing just how low that saddle really is!
It’s a great place to discuss politics as well and, with a little judicious “baiting” by one or the other, stimulating conversations inevitably arise and separate the…well you know what I mean.
Strangely, I find it a tremendous opportunity to gently share my Christian walk with others. John is someone I have been able to get very close to. He’s in his 80s and is on his own since his wife was placed in a care facility some months ago. Does all his housework, laundry, gardening…loves jigsaw puzzles…
He was a builder for decades and, following a fall some years ago, finds great difficulty in walking, even with the help of a cane. But he swims every day…like a fish.
I am amazed at the number of elderly people who do come in and regularly swim laps for exercise. In fact, just the other day a new lady, who was walking with great difficulty after a knee operation, came into the gym. She has a big frame and her weight must have made it incredibly painful to get around.
After a while, I saw that she had changed and gone into the pool. To my absolute amazement, she was swimming with what appeared to be professional skill…smooth, easy movements…breaststroke, backstroke, the crawl…all so easy.
I was talking to John about it later and asked him whether he finds relief from pain when swimming. He assured me that he did and that the exercise freed up his stiffened joints and kept him limber for the rest of the day. In fact he said that, without swimming, he felt he would lose mobility totally and very quickly.
Both John and the other lady were like fishes in water. Within that milieu, they were freed to do best what they do well. They could both exercise and demonstrate their skills to others who—in watching—might be inspired to do more.
Out of the water, you might consider them to be at a disadvantage compared to some with more supple joints. But, in the water…well that’s another story.
It struck me that this is an allegory for the exercise of personal ministry. We each have been created uniquely by God to make a positive difference in this world. But we do it best when we exercise the gifts and talents in settings that release our spiritual energy, rejuvenate us, and inspire others. The key is in selection of the milieu, the environment in which we strive to exercise those unique qualities. And I firmly believe that, when we do so, we are happiest and bear much fruit. Others, too, can observe and recognize the gifts at work and rejoice with us.
The key to finding your milieu…the “pond” in which your ministry shines…is to discover what you feel passionate about…some cause, or group of persons whose lives you want to help improve. God placed within each of us such an urge and he doesn’t do so idly. You can see people with a passion for ministry, you can hear it in their language, sense it in their attitude and motivation.
On the other hand, it’s also fairly easy to spot a fish out of water.