Look at the Size of that Goldfish: Life-long Learning Pt. 1

Did you have one?

I know I had one.

Growing up, I had a very creative and intriguing great-uncle. One summer, he decided to dig a manmade lake on his large parcel of land (this sort of activity was not out of the ordinary for his eccentric personality). When the pond was ready, he went to the store and purchased tons of tiny little goldfish. As a little boy, I was absolutely fascinated by the whole operation. What really grabbed my attention, however, was how big the goldfish grew in the pond. I had many goldfish during my childhood—as many children do—and most of my fish only grew to be about two-inches long, and then they died—as most goldfish do. However, the fish my uncle had were huge; some of them looked more like brook trout!

Science actually tells us that the size and growth of a goldfish is dependant on its environment.[1] What does that mean? The bigger the bowl, the bigger the fish. I find this fact so interesting because I feel as though it sheds light on a particular issue many Christians wrestle with: personal growth.

When Jesus taught the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, He made a profound, yet familiar statement: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” (Lk. 10:27). As Christians, we strive to serve Christ with all of our heart, which is our emotions. We strive to serve Christ with all of our soul, which is our spiritual life. We also strive to serve Christ with all of our strength, which is our physical body. Because of the pressure and schedule of ministry, however, we often neglect to serve Christ with our mind, which is our intellect. Serving Christ with our intellect simply means using the mind that God gave us. One practical way to serve Christ with your mind is what I call “3L” or Life-long Learning.

A life-long learner is an individual who understands that they have a responsibility to grow. Christians who have yet to put in place practices to mature and grow are like the fish stuck in a small bowl. Whereas Christians who have established certain practices are like goldfish in the pond—they have the ability to grow to their full potential.

I haven’t always been a person who enjoyed learning. Actually, if I am honest, I enjoy succeeding at something that comes easy much more than I do learning something new. Let me give you a few examples. When I was a youngster, my parents enrolled me in piano lessons. Every week for 30-minutes I would go to Mrs. Lee’s house to torture her and her poor piano. After five years of lessons I quit, because I didn’t want to learn—I just wanted to play!

A second example: When I was in grade five, my family moved and I changed schools. It was only then that my parents realized that I was absolutely terrible at math and was unable to multiply and divide. My previous teacher had let me slip by and I had fallen behind. To be honest with you I enjoyed making up answers on math tests, I felt creative, but I was not learning. My parents eventually purchased a CD that ‘rapped’ the multiplication table,[2] and I would listen to it every night as I went to bed. (Side Note: I am pretty good with my multiplications up to 7, but afterwards it gets fuzzy because that’s usually when I fell asleep.)

Finally, in High School, I had a difficult time learning to drive a car. Not because I couldn’t physically drive a car, but because I thought I knew how to do it from the first day behind the wheel. I didn’t see the need to slow down before I took a sharp turn. I didn’t see the need to check my mirrors when changing lanes. I didn’t see the need to slowly accelerate on a green light instead of “pedal to the metal.” It took a while for my parents to correct and teach me how to drive in a safe manner.

Now, you’re probably sitting there judging me as you read this, and most likely laughing at the fact that I used to listen to a CD that rapped the multiplication table. But if you were honest with yourself, you also have had many experiences yourself with “learning.”

For some of us, our past experience of learning has not been good. Some of us have had bad experiences in school or work. Some people learn at different levels and because of that, feel embarrassed or ashamed. And some people simply stopped learning once they finished their last exam. All of these attitudes, however, even those that seem legitimate, are wrong.

Why are they wrong? These attitudes are problematic because they limit the potential of what God can do through us. A 3L (Life-long Learner) is a Christian who understands that Jesus is glorified when we strive to expand and grow in our intellect.

(To Be Continued in Part 2)


[1] Goldfish Article: http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=0&aid=2650. Also, goldfish are indifferent to music, according to this research paper: Effect of Light and Music on Growth Performance and Survival Rate of Goldfish. Who knew?

[2] This is the CD; looked exactly like this: http://www.amazon.ca/Multiplication-Rap-Hip-Twin-Sisters/dp/1575832690

About Andrew Ball

Andrew is currently living in Clarenville with his wife, Julia, and son, Levi. He has served at Calvary Pentecostal Church both as youth, and now lead pastor.