From the Shallows to the Deep
July 7, 2010 § 1 Comment
I am convinced that most of us wade through our lives in the shallows of existence.
Like moms at the beach—the ones who wear shorts and T-shirts instead of swimming suits; the ones who roll their shorts up and walk like they’re on eggshells in about 6 inches of water.
Most people are those moms (including me).
We like the ocean and we know there’s a lot of fun to be had; but maybe we’re not convinced it’s fun for us.
So we wade out, rolling up our shorts so as not to sacrifice our comfort.
Gingerly we step around, oblivious to the greater world; all wrapped up in that shallow place.
With eyes intent on the shifting sands we plod along, content to feel the water lapping against our legs and the sand swirling around our feet. Then we shriek and run for the hot, dry sand when the water hits higher than our knees, flinching our shoulders like we heard a gunshot.
But in real life it looks a little bit different.
In real life, the shallows are our jobs, our families, even our churches.
It’s there we build security, there on the beach.
We surround ourselves with others like us, with careers, with children. We create our own reality complete with a god in our own image, we study it with eyes turned down to the shifting sands around our feet, to see all that we have made and proclaim to those who listen “it is good”.
In this way we convince ourselves that the world belongs to those who wade.
And in the end we wonder why we are not satisfied.
We are not satisfied because we are not created to be satisified…at least not with shallow places.
Not with self-created isolation and the continuation of worlds built of sand.
The God of Israel created His people not to dwell on the beach; but rather to own the ocean!
I am not satisfied.
Not with shallow religion; the perpetuation of practices that cease to amaze and inspire fresh expressions of a radical life built not of sand—but of water; of fire; of earth and wind.
We call them crazy—those who swim or dance or try to fly.
But if that was what they were created to do—then who is it that’s crazy?
We comfort ourselves by saying they obviously don’t understand what’s at stake.
We call them Dreamers. Idealists. Hippies.
We console ourselves with the thought that one day, they’ll wake up. One day they’ll learn their lesson.
They should be here—closer to shore—closer to home, finding jobs, buying homes, making families…building sandcastles.
After all, don’t they know that deep water is dangerous?
Paul talks about learning contentment—an important teaching to hear in an age when the first rule of marketing is to make people discontent.
But I fear we have contented ourselves with everything but the resurrection that calls us into deeper and deeper mystery; into more profound disruption.
The kind of contentment I wish for everyone is contentment that is learned, not earned.
Learning implies change, and a certain kind of flexibility in ones character. It’s my contention that Paul learned to be content in jail, through shipwrecks, and in circumstances he had no control over.
On the other hand, earning contentment (like earning anything else) implies a certain single-mindedness, a willingness to achieve something against all odds (which allows oneself to be the only unchangable reality in play).
God is a good teacher—but a horrible taskmaster. He calls us to change; to take the plunge into the deep; to risk our sandcastles and shallow safety on the promises of One who is not safe; but deep.