Fish and Eyeballs

The two most important things I have learned in the last ten years are these:  fish do not know they are wet, and you can’t see your own eyeball.

Yes, those are seemingly trivial and silly.  They do represent two important ideas.

It is unlikely fish think about the medium in which they spend their entire lives.  Their ability to eat, breath, move, and reproduce is completely dependent on being in water.  Even though many species of fish live in schools, there is no scientific evidence to suggest those schools are based on academic circles which investigate the problems of living in water, threats of predators, or how to better co-exist with plankton.  Fish are just critters who live in water.  They are unaware of the water and their need for it until it isn’t there (they are flopping in the bottom of a boat) or the pollution in the water makes them sick.  Even then, are they aware?

Equally eyeballs should give cause for some reflection (pun intended).  While we look through our eyeballs all the time (except when blinking and sleeping), we never actually see the eyeball.  The light passes through it, it does its neurological magic with the brain, and we are able to perceive what is around us.  We see everything but the eyeball itself.

Here is why fish and eyeballs are important.  

Fish remind us how easily we can be oblivious to the environment around us, our dependency upon it, and ultimately, the potential for a toxic environment to make us unwell.  We may not even be aware it is happening.  Unlike the fish, we have been given the ability to engage with our environment, to observe it, to influence it, and to change it.  This is true not only of our physical environment (the natural world around us), it is also true of our inner world: the world of our beliefs, perceptions, priorities, and choices.  That inner “environment” is vulnerable to currents that can move us, predators that can destroy us, and pollution that can be toxic.  Peter warned the church the devil is seeking to overwhelm (1 Pet. 5:8).  Verse nine would suggest his tactic is to create dangerous environments (suffering) that will pollute our ability to depend on God exclusively.  Peter’s solution (and he was an expert at creating and surviving toxic environments) is to be “sober and alert.”  If it were able, a smart fish would sensitize itself to its environment, looking for those toxic elements.  Fish can’t, but we can.  

Eyeballs are similar to fish.  Our eyes allow our minds to form a  perception of the world around us. The eye is much more than just a conduit.  It is so transparent that we forget it is there and that the eye itself needs care.  When we go to a construction site, we wear safety goggles because our eyes need protection.  When we go to the optometrist, we may have our eyes dilated.  This most definitely does not help us see better, but it does allow for an external checkup to ensure all is well.  When we ride our motorcycles, we wear a visor so our vision is not blurred by the wind or damaged by flying debris.  We protect our eyes because they are the gateway to our perception.  So also we must guard and check on the quality of the eyeballs of our inner world.  Paul wrote:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true,
whatever is honorable,
whatever is right,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is of good repute,
if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise,
dwell on these things.
(Phi 4:8 NASB)

In other words, we must diligently evaluate what our eyeballs allow to influence our environment.  Our inner world will be as healthy as the things we let into it.  Protecting our eyeballs and having them checked regularly will help us grow a healthy environment.  Fish and eyeballs need nurture and care.  So also our minds, hearts, passions, and priorities.


Graham Bulmer
Lead Pastor
Graham and Sharon Bulmer bring many years of pastoral, teaching, leadership development and administrative experience to the Q50 Community Church plant. They served in Latin America as missionaries for almost 15 years, and have pastored here in Canada.