It feels like we have spent our time paddling around in the shallow waters for too long.
It is as if, as the end of summer draws into view, we have spent all our time on the beach. The sun is warm and the breeze is pleasant, but the deep water calls to us. We were made for more than sitting on the sand. The greater depths of the water connect to the greater depths within us.
Are we ready to answer the call to explore the greater depths?
The challenges of going deeper may intimidate us. Greater depths could cause us to lose control, to go beyond where we are comfortable. There are things in the deeper waters we do not want to face directly. Are we strong enough or well enough prepared?
Standing on the shore we cannot see where exploring the greater depths will take us. What will happen if they lead us further than we can handle?
What is it about greater depths which makes us fear going further?
Even though we are anxious or intimidated, we cannot look away. The power of the depths captures our attention and draws us toward the water. We cannot look away. Our imaginations wonder about all the places we might go.
Spiritual life is like the ocean. It may be pleasant to spend time in the sun on the beach. Our imagination is captured by the greater depths.
We may be comfortable on the sand. The greater depths call us to something more.
What would it be like to respond to the call and explore the greater depths of spiritual life?
Getting Ready to Explore the Greater Depths
Being ready to explore the greater depths is more than just deciding to jump in and start.
There is effort between the boy on shore looking out over the ocean and starting. We want to be prepared to take on something which intimidates us, which we find challenging. It can be helpful to work with someone who can guide us and show us how to get ready.
Like people preparing to set off out to sea, we train to deal with the greater spiritual depths.
Some people practice traditional spiritual disciplines to become more open to depth. They may follow prayer practices, reflective reading, meditation, or periods of stillness. There are also more active practices like feeding hungry people or expanding social justice. These practices often have immediate benefits as well as preparing us for something more.
Many of these disciplines can be interpreted and practiced in more contemporary ways. Some of us visit monasteries or volunteer for specific programs. Other people regularly spend time in nature or provide meals for people living on the street. Each of us applies the disciplines we follow in the unique ways which give us meaning.
As we practice our disciplines over time, many of us find ourselves drawn to something deeper. We may begin to find a discipline we have enjoyed in the past begins to feel dry or routine. Some people may feel guilty or ashamed because they are not able to sustain a dedicated practice.
In fact, the spiritual disciplines we practice are not ends in themselves. As with physical exercise, spiritual practices help prepare us for greater depths.
Most of us do not run or lift weights to become the greatest runners or weight lifters. Our practices are means to an end, steps which prepare us for something more.
How We Prepare for the Greater Depths
The spiritual disciplines we practice are not sacred in themselves. It is not as if repeating a practice so many times a day, every day, earns us greater spiritual life. We find the practices which are ways for us to take time and we become more open to what draws us.
Pauses to listen to stillness are reminders of what draws me into spiritual life. Taking a deep breath, setting aside time for reflection and contemplation, are steps forward. It is as if I need to stop and remember what is important and why I am doing this.
Being busy tends to pull me out of myself and into focusing on goals and objectives. The practices in which I stop and look out toward the greater depth help restore me to myself.
It is easy for us to get caught up in the smallest pictures. We become so concentrated on details and minutiae we lose sight of the far horizon. It is easy for us to strain at a grain of sand and forget about the ocean.
Our lives get absorbed by How? and When? rather than Why?
While we practice the greater depths we intentionally allow smaller concerns to pass. Our universe does not revolve around us. There are greater, deeper powers at work.
Recognizing the greater depths around, and within, me is an essential part of spiritual life.
Where Do We Find Our Greater Depths?
Life is too short to spend it stuck in the shallows. The point and meaning of our lives is in the greater depths.
We need to schedule time for ourselves to look out over the ocean. We do not want to spend the entire summer sitting on the beach without ever looking out.
Spiritual life calls to us, drawing us toward the greater depths. It is fine to sit in the sun reading a good book, but that is only a taste. We smell the ocean and enjoy the warmth of the sun, but there is more.
There are greater depths in us which we have yet to explore.
When do you stop and look out toward the greater depths?
What is drawing us to go deeper this week?