Sunday, 25 August 2013

Diving for Pearls

We’re on holiday in Scotland at the moment and walking along a sea loch this afternoon, I was watching the water. The tide was completely out and the beach was empty of everything except lines of blackened bladder-wrack, pebbles and rocks and the painters of a few small boats which are moored further out in deeper water. The surface of the water was like a mirror – hardly a ripple disturbed it except when a seagull alighted, and its colour was a deep emerald green.

Looking more closely I could see how clear the water was. I could see the bottom several yards out, where it suddenly dipped and then all became opaque. It was beautiful. I wanted to wade right in and swim in it. It was certainly clean enough for swimming. And there must have been a host of interesting things below, much further than I could see; oysters, mussels, fish of different kinds, wrecks, even treasure, who knows?
Last week the children had gone out and brought back some mussels which we cooked and ate for supper. Suddenly, half way through a mouthful, my husband bit on something hard and gave a cry of anguish. He was afraid that he had lost a bit of tooth and bitten on it. It turned out to be a minute pearl, not more than a millimetre in size. I hadn’t known that mussels, as well as oysters, produce pearls. Well, out of that meal we isolated about twenty tiny pearls, some white, some grey or even purple, some rather bigger than others, mostly imperfectly round, but none bigger than a red lentil. I’m sure they’re not valuable. But all this was under the surface of the water and had the tide not gone out we would never have found them unless someone had dived for them. Anyway, it started a train of thought in my mind.
Sometimes, when we look at spiritual things on a superficial level, all appears clear. We think we have understood something because of what we have seen with our natural eyes. Many things however, can’t be understood by simply looking at the surface of things.
Just as the depths of the sea can’t be understood by merely looking at the surface of the water, to understand the depths of God, we need to actually get into the water and dive deep down. Not many can take this kind of diving. Only those who are trained can do so – like pearl divers. They learn to dive from a young age and their lungs are trained to take the pressure for several minutes at a time.
Life is rather like that, I thought. It’s full of pressure. Many can’t take the pressure and drown. Some weeks ago a friend took me to the Blausee, a natural lake in Germany, which has an unearthly blue colour. It’s free of algae, completely clear and perfect for swimming in. I hadn’t swum outdoors for a long time and was keen to get in. It was wonderful. The water has a marvellous softness, it wasn’t cold after weeks of blisteringly hot temperatures, and you could dive under the surface and see a good distance. Anyway, I tried diving down as far as I could. I got quite far, but realised that I wasn’t going to get any deeper and I still hadn’t seen the bottom. I was gasping for air when I finally reached the surface. I didn’t have lungs which are trained, even though I’m a fairly strong swimmer.
Life is like deep waters. Sooner or later, we all find ourselves out of our depth. It’s at those times that we find out whether we have been trained to develop lungs which can take the pressure or not. God teaches us in apparently impossible situations to learn to breathe His air, the Ruach haKodesh, Holy Spirit of Wisdom, and not to breathe with our own natural wisdom. ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding’ (Prov. 3:5). We need to develop lungs which can take the pressure. And pressure there will be.
We will look at a given situation with our natural eyes and think that we know what to do, or think that we understand it. In reality, though, there are depths to the situation which only the Holy Spirit can reveal, and in time, He will do so. When things don’t go as we want them to, when people or situations bring us out of our depth, that’s when our lungs are tested. Do I breathe the Holy Spirit? Do I take my situation to God? Do I thank Him for His wisdom, or do I see the circumstances from my own limited perspective and react accordingly? Am I then inclined to thrash around in my own failing strength, and cloud the clear waters with my exertions, possibly even drowning others in the process? Will I ask Him first, and wait on Him to deliver me, or will I try and do it myself, by allowing my flesh to act? This will only produce death. If I am dead with Christ, and I am, then I no longer have to breathe with my natural lungs; I have the supernatural breath of the Holy One Himself within me. I need to obey, learn – be trained to breathe His breath. Again, as I said in my last post, it’s all a matter of letting Him do in me what I can’t do.

May we only see with His eyes and, diving deep beneath the surface of things, breathe with His breath.

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