Beneath The Surface

waterBGIt’s our new routine…and our happy place. Sitting on the back porch watching the sun rise across the small lake on which we live.

Absolutely calm and still, absent of the afternoon breeze, our lake is a polished mirror with perfect reflections of the large oaks, beautiful houses and thick summer clouds that create its frame.

My favorite thing about these mornings is to watch the lake wake up. As the sun elbows morning to crawl out of bed, life surfaces from the lake’s deeper places.

  • Hungry bass burst from the brackish depths to pursue their prey
  • Timid bluegill pop the still water snapping up their buggy breakfast
  • Fat carp roll in the warm shallows as if emerging from hibernation
  • Lazy turtles surface and submerge creating little whirlpools in their wake

And because it’s Florida, a small gator or two stealthily slip to the waterline like submarines surfacing for a look around.

Our little lake literally comes to life.

But we can only see that life when there is stillness at the surface. Once the cooling ocean breeze dances across the lake, the roiled surface disguises what is beneath.

There is a kind of sadness for me in that rippling of the lake. With the stirring of the surface I lose awareness of the abundant living that goes on below.

Now I know, life thrives on top and along the banks of the water. But what truly defines the lake–what makes it what it is–is not what is nourished on the surface. Its true identity lies in the hidden biosphere of its depths.

Every time I watch this waking lake I hear a faint call in my own inner space.

It may well be what the Old Testament song writer felt when he wrote,

“Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.”  (Psalm 42:7)

The surface of my life gets the most attention these days. It is the constantly squeaking wheel gobbling up all the oil. I am so busy making a living in the ordinary monotony of the daily that I miss creating life from the extraordinary flashes of eternity.

What demands my attention and too often gets my affection is the stuff of life that goes on at the surface. All the people and things that draw part of their existence from what I produce get the greater (and better) parts of me.

Like my lake, I am good at supporting what is around me. That, of course, is not a bad thing.

But what creates the life I offer to all that thrives around me is the secret life perpetually growing within me. Because of the energy swirling below there is something to give away above.

The life I have to offer to the world around me is utterly dependent on the life I have germinating inside me.

Without that life beneath the surface I am no more than our still lake when it is reflecting its surroundings. I can quickly become a mirror of the culture. A mere reflection of what is around me.

It may look nice, but that is not why the lake exists.

It is not my purpose either. The numbing busy-ness and inane activity of the surface can easily make me inattentive to what lies beneath.

The real stuff that defines who I actually am is not found in the wakes or the waves but in the dark stillness of the depths. The life that matters most is below the churning surface.

Where God is.

God “desires truth (reality, authenticity, transparency) in the inner parts” (Psalm 51:6) because that is where He is busy working. He lives in the underbelly of my existence–the subterranean Spirit “in whom (I) live, move and have (my) being.” (Acts 17:28)

But because He is hidden He is also easily ignored.

This is the very tactic the enemy of my soul exploits. His one purpose to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10) is accomplished when he roils the daily stuff of living so my focus becomes success or survival.

Getting by. Getting through. Getting more. Getting ahead.

But in all this “getting” what am I giving up?

Too often, it is who I am. There is little that robs me of meaning as quickly as letting my “self” be defined by the stuff at the surface.

Whether accomplishment or failure, possessions or position, acclaim or abandonment, popularity or isolation, when I am defined by what is seen I lose the profound beauty of what is unseen. The stuff called “me” that God knit together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).

These real, gut-level, God-reflecting idiosyncrasies make me uniquely individual. They keep me from dissolving into the mindless blob of indistinguishable “humanity”.

They are the reason I am.

This is what lies beneath the surface. So why don’t I dive deeply in to find and release this stuff?

Honestly, I refuse to be still enough to see what lies inside mainly because I’m scared.

Guilt from unremedied failures, pain from unhealed hurts, anger from unresolved griefs from the past…these lurk beneath the surface too.

In the inner space of who I really am, there be dragons.

I don’t swim in my backyard pond because there are unfriendly critters in its murky depths.

I don’t submerge to explore the depths of my soul not because I fear what I don’t know but because I am terrified of what I do know lies beneath.

But this fear of the known is most certainly not worth missing the experience and adventure of what I have not yet discovered about who I am as God defines me. Sometimes I have to risk the potential pain of delving into this space in order to uncover its living beauty.

“What is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)

Most of my faith as a Jesus-follower is like that. I live sacramentally.

  • It isn’t about bread and wine…but the body and blood of Jesus that lay behind them.
  • It isn’t water at baptism that counts…but immersion into Christ.
  • It isn’t human hands laid on the sick…but divine life flowing through them.

It is what lies beneath that matters.

I am not what I have made myself–good or bad. I am what God is making me. I am His vision under construction. His dream coming true.

Oh yes, I am often clay on the wheel that has to be squished and re-formed. But the truth is, I am becoming. And what I am becoming–the shape I am taking–is ultimately an expression of what is within. The “what-God-is-up-to” stuff.

The potential is always in the seed. The life is ultimately in the womb.

What matters most and most defines me is what goes on beneath the surface.

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