I had heard all the stories from Jill. She told how Luna would jump out of the water, nipping at fingers as she literally bit the hands of those who fed her. Other times Jill recounted how Luna had eaten all of Big Daddy and his mate's wee ones. Of course, I always imagined such a beautiful fish could not possibly be so cruel. "Surely Jill exaggerates," I thought, but I soon learned for myself that Luna was just as much of a lunatic as Jill had ever implied.
Our family had the privilege of fish-sitting for Jill over the late winter and spring. At first my family of seven was completely enamored with the fish, finding much enjoyment in simply watching their gracefully motions and discussing the details of all we saw occurring in the large tank. Our only prior fish experiences had been with solitary bettas. By comparison, we found the personalities and interactions of these fish captivating, bringing the tank to life in a way I had never anticipated.
Before long, each of us had a favorite. The kids loved Big Daddy, the gentle giant of a fish who preferred resting in one particular corner of the tank over doing much actual swimming. Jon seemed to especially enjoy Goldy, the tiniest fish. She was bright in color and quick as lightning, flitting from one side of the tank to another almost as quickly as it took to blink an eye. My favorites were the pair of enormous sucker fish. They often arranged themselves in symmetrical poses against the glass sides of the tank, delighting me with their synchronized sucking action.
No one really liked Luna. She was an irritable, mean fish, controlling the waters from her hiding spot in the plastic log at the bottom of the tank. The other fish swam wide circles around her, avoiding the area that was Luna's dark hole. A nasty bite was often the reward for getting too close to Luna's hideout.
One morning about a week into our fish sitting stint, we got up to discover one of the smaller fish in the tank had died during the night. The dead fish lay right at the entrance to Luna's log, a large chunk missing from its side. It didn't take a detective like Sherlock Holmes to put the pieces of the mystery together. Luna was a murderer.
Immediately, the kids voted that Luna should be kicked out of the tank, execution style. Jon, however, had more of a heart of justice mixed with mercy. He removed Luna from the large tank and put her in a plastic bowl. Later that day, we bought Luna a smaller tank of her own, handing down a sentence of permanent solitary confinement.
Beautiful Luna. She swam around her smaller tank for several days, rearranging the rocks and pushing her new, larger log into a different position. Though she didn't exactly seem miserable to be left alone, even in her solitude she never was an enjoyable fish to watch ... somehow still unhappy, irritable, and moody if it is even possible for a fish to be all of those things. We fed her and she ate. We took care of her needs. Mostly she stayed hidden in her private log, remaining about as unloveable as a porcupine is unhuggable.
Luna died yesterday, after spending three months in her new, private tank. In life she wasn't much loved; in death she wasn't much mourned. And all I can think is that despite being one of the more beautiful fish I've ever know, Luna's beauty was definitely all on the outside.
It's almost ridiculous to think that one could learn much of anything from a beautiful fish with a bit of a bad attitude. After all, the expectations and responsibilities for Luna's life were exceedingly low. A fish isn't capable of learning polite behaviors or improving upon character flaws.
It is not so for me. My life is filled with the demands of being a wife and mother, a teacher in my home, a daughter and sister and friend, a writer of encouragement. Each role comes complete with its own set of pressures and stresses. Often, in the thick of my day-to-day life, I find my temper far too short and my voice much too harsh.
Most mornings, I spend a chunk of time in my bathroom making myself presentable for the day, focusing solely upon the reflection I see in the mirror. Like most females, I long to be beautiful and work hard to make myself appear so for my husband. Yet the deep truth is all the beauty products in the world will not make me a beautiful woman if my heart is not right before God.
Today as I look at our empty fish tank and think about Luna, I am reminded of these words from 1 Peter 3: 3-4
"Your beauty should not consist of outward things ... instead it should consist of what is inside the heart with the inperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God's eyes."
The lesson I learned from the life of Luna is simply the reminder to work hard each day at being beautiful ... beautiful from the inside out.