Daily Practice: Swimming Lessons vs The Shallow Area

The Child and the Ocean

photo via Daniele Sartori (Creative Commons)

My daily spiritual practice book for 2012 is A Year with C.S. Lewis, and I have already posted from it once here. The past few day’s readings have been thought-provoking, and I wanted to share it with you.

St John of the Cross once compared God to the ocean. To us, the oceans are the most vast, deep, and mysterious places on Earth. We still don’t know all about it, even with all our new technology. Yet what a speck it is compared to God! The temptation for us as Christians, is that since we acknowledge the ocean, are simply content to wade in to the shallow end, splash around, and enjoy the feelings of God spraying around us. We can do just fine there for the rest of our lives, having a little God, the spirit swirling around our knees. But we are still close enough to shore, to the temporal pleasures and things we hold on to in this life. Our castles made of sand. Of course the ocean can rise up at any time and wash our sand castles away, but most of the time it seems that it does not. Because to do that would make us see how fleeting they are, and how powerful the ocean is. But we hang on to our lifelines, and keep building.

The other option is to take swimming lessons. Sure, they’re awkward, you’ll choke on some water, and you’ll mostly feel uncomfortable for a long time. Then you’ll begin to swim, and feel that you can go a little deeper, perhaps make it out to the sandbar, then continue on. We become fully immersed in the ocean, and even though we cannot see when the next island or sandbar will appear, those are no longer ours to plan for.

In the Christian life, we can take swimming lessons by reading the Bible, attending the community church, sharing with others, having spiritual mentors, seeking out the poor, and daily showing up to swim. The idea of the ocean in spiritual life is quite apt, because God calls us to be fully immersed.

This idea also has application besides your spiritual life, because what ever you are passionate about will require that you become immersed in it. For writing, sports, eating well, your work, relationships, or whatever, do you want to learn how to swim, or are you comfortable piddling about in the shallow area?

What are your oceans, and are you taking swimming lessons? I would enjoy hearing your stories. Have a great day.


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