Meet Melanie, The Uncrushable Humpback of Madeira

Humpback anglerfish (Melanocetus johnsonii), a species of black seadevil (Melanocetidae). From August Brauer (1863–1917): Die Tiefsee-Fische. I. Systematischer Teil.. In C. Chun. Wissenschaftl. Ergebnisse der deutschen Tiefsee-Expedition ‘Valdivia’, 1898-99, 1906. This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 70 years or fewer.

You’ve seen her in movies such as Disney / Pixar’s Finding Nemo.  She’s appeared on SpongeBob SquarePants,  She’s been the bane of deep sea crustaceans for eons.

She is Melanocetus johnsonii: the Humpback Anglerfish.  We’ll call her Melanie for short.

And Melanie is a lot like you and me.

OK, let me explain.  To look at her, your first reaction may be to recoil in horror.  Let’s face it, at the very least, Melanie is way past due for a trip to the dentist.

She’s no Marilyn Monroe.  But she wasn’t created to be.

Melanie was handcrafted by God to thrive in the environment where He created her to live.  The Creator designed her with a luminescent “bulb” she dangles in front of her gaping mouth to lure prey.  He even provided her with the bacteria that cause her light gland to shine.

(And I thought Rudolph’s red nose was impressive.)

God didn’t just teach Melanie to fish.  He gave her the rod and bait as well.

And, wow, can she eat.  Melanie’s one mean carnivore, with a huge mouth and curved teeth perfectly designed to catch her dinner.  To hold her consumed prey (after all, she needs to hold as much nutrition as possible – shrimp aren’t exactly plentiful at 3,000 feet beneath the surface), Melanie’s stomach can swell to double her size. 

Take that, Mr. Creosote!  (My apologies for the disgusting Monty Python reference.)

Not only can Melanie avoid starvation, she is created to withstand immense pressure.  Consider this: at 100 feet below sea level, divers not wearing pressure suits can begin suffering nitrogen narcosis, leading to lethargy and impaired brain processes.  At 250 feet the average scuba diver becomes incapacitated.  We humans are not designed to live at these depths.  Melanie can live at a depth of 3,000 feet, where the pressure can reach over 1,300 PSI.  To put this in perspective, it takes 10-20 PSI to crush an aluminum drink can.  43-58 PSI underwater can crush a human.  

Like Melanie, we are created for the place God has us.  Melanie’s secret to surviving the pressure she lives in: she has no air within her.  No air = no air pressure.

Our “secret”: faith.  Simple trust in our loving Father God as opposed to our circumstances.  We are designed to serve and glorify God, to love one another, to be salt and light to a dark world.  We are called to follow Jesus Christ:

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? – Matthew 16:24-26 (ESV)

God equips us through His Word, providing us with the wisdom, guidance, comfort and strengthening we need to fulfill our purpose:

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.– 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)

Just as God provides for Melanie – as well as all of His creation, from the bottom of the sea to the heights of the sky – He provides for our every need as well:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:25-33 (ESV)

So, are you where God intends you to be?  Yes.  Are you doing what you were called to do?  If you are trusting Jesus, following God’s Word, seeking the Lord and glorifying Him in your life, yes.  God is after our hearts,  If our hearts are right, the rest will follow.

Like us, God created Melanie, as well as the environment she calls home.  Despite how uninhabitable her undersea world may appear (pitch dark frigid cold, with crushing pressure), the LORD provides Melanie with all she needs to live at the ocean floor. 

Unlike Melanie, we are created not merely to survive, but to thrive in our surroundings.  We are not created to attract as much krill and shrimp as we can consume, but to be a shining example of Christ, using our “bulb” to illuminate the world where we live.

You have a God-ordained purpose.  Find great comfort and joy in that simple fact.  Life isn’t always easy.  But it should be purposeful.

All-Encompassing Gratitude

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4-7 (ESV)

I’m sitting in my favorite coffee shop. And I am grateful.

Very grateful.

Grateful to be anywhere outside my home. OK… maybe not anywhere. I’m not neck deep in a vat or boiling tar, or detained indefinitely in a dank foreign prison cell, or attending a political rally.

And, don’t misunderstand me. I am grateful for my home.

But I’m grateful to no longer be under COVID-19 induced house arrest.

Gratitude is a habit I really should work harder to cultivate. If I would learn to see all good things as a gift from God – and this includes the painful and uncomfortable things I would just as soon reject but are good for me – my life would be so much more joyful and productive.

We should be grateful to the LORD for everything,, because everything is in His hands. He is in control. And in that we can all rest peacefully, especially when life feels out of control.

Be grateful when life is difficult, because He is molding me.

Shaping me.

Growing and refining me.

Leading me.

Be grateful for where I am in life. He has me at this station for a reason. I’m thankful I’m not king, not in charge. Who wants that responsibility? I’d foul everything faster than you can say “Uh-oh”.

Be grateful for all I have, tempered with the understanding that my greatest possessions are no tangible possessions at all, but the people God has put in my life, My family. My friends. The people who God put in my path to teach me, open my eyes, influence me. We recently lost a very dear family friend, someone I’ve known all my life. His passing started me thinking about the influence he had on me as a child. And my heart swelled with gratitude to God for having known him.

When we are grateful, the garbage in our lives refocuses, the feeling of hardship diminishes, our spirit flourishes and our life perspective corrects. When we approach God with gratitude, we recognize He alone is God. He alone has our best interests at heart (after all, His will is our best interest, and vice versa),

I am grateful to be in this coffee shop. Now I am grateful to be going home, where my wife and son are – who I am far more grateful for.