Friday, August 2, 2019

The Beautiful Depths

I recently went snorkeling for the first time. 

Well, technically, I’ve snorkeled before. But the last time was in about five feet of muddy water, which I don’t think counts. Nor does the time I “snorkeled” in the Red Sea at age 20, since a bout of claustrophobia hit me the instant I put my face in the water. 

But this was real snorkeling. On a reef in the Bahamas. 

It was my absolute favorite moment of our family cruise. (Although I must admit that watching Avengers Endgame all together while floating on the Atlantic, with my teenage daughter clad in a Captain Marvel dress, was pretty cool.)

But snorkeling was spectacular. Not that it started out that way. 

When the captain killed the engine at the designated spot, I looked around and thought, “Well, this is a bust. There’s nothing here.” 

The water was as still as a stagnant pond, blackish blue marred by large swaths of brown. “What in the world are we going to do here for an hour and a half?” I wondered to myself. So I climbed down the ladder with snarky expectations, pushed off and stuck my face in the water. 

My involuntary gasp thundered through the snorkel. 

I was not prepared for the wonderland that lay beneath the unassuming surface. The corals, the creatures, the plants. Other-worldly colors, perfect choreography, beckoning sway. 

My maternal anxiety over the family getting separated dissolved instantly in the gentle current. 

Entranced, I chased after every magical curiosity. Trailed a ray as it fluttered along the ocean floor. Carefully backpedaled from a barracuda. Twice. But mostly drifted here and there, mesmerized by fish painted in colors I’d never even imagined. 

Instead of a middle-aged mom weighed down by details and expectations, I became a little kid buoyed by wonder and delight. I was completely captivated, and the time flew. 

Eventually the captain called us back, and I reluctantly climbed the ladder, pausing to look back at the water. Once again, the surface above misrepresented the majesty below. Like some science fiction shield cloaking untold treasure. But now I knew. 

I closed my eyes against the whipping wind as we motored back to the ship. And it occurred to me that my snorkeling experience was a vivid example of people’s perspective on the Christian life. 

Here’s what I mean. That day on the ocean, what I thought looked eye-rollingly boring lit me up with wonder once I peered beneath the surface. Those ugly swaths of brown blah from above were actually the reef below: intricate corals painted in the full spectrum, fostering life and beauty and harmony. 

If you don’t believe in Jesus, I realize that, from your perspective, the Christian life may look boring and bland, foolish and weird, a royal waste of time. Just like I thought with an eye roll as we stopped over the reef. And just like I thought about Christians and the church before I personally encountered the Messiah as a young adult. 

But, oh, once you’ve jumped in and looked beneath the surface! Once you’ve met the One who first knit you brilliantly together and then stepped in to heal your brokenness! Once you perceive His great power yet also taste His deep kindness! And discover hidden places where you comprehend His call and receive His grace upon grace upon grace!

The vibrant, thrilling wonderland under the surface is what walking with God is like. It’s not about monotonous rules or mundane religiosity. It’s a breathtaking relationship. One that astounds you at every turn, no matter how much you’ve already seen. One that compels you to follow Him into unknown waters because He’s just that good. 

If you’re already living in the beautiful depths, please don’t let your heart and mind become clouded to how incredibly breathtaking it is! But when you do find yourself in that cloudy place - which we all sometimes do - stop and take time to wipe the fog from your goggles and see Him anew in all His majesty! And, please, as you interact with others, do whatever you can to shatter the shield of misconception about what life with God is like!

On the other hand, if you’re someone who’s observing from above the surface, looking skeptically at Christians based on what you have seen from the outside, I invite you to dip your toe in the water. Get to know some divers and ask them about what they’ve seen. And I pray that one day you will come to personally know the Redeemer who unlocks all the unseen beauty to you...