By Josh Patterson
Scuba diving and snorkeling are close cousins but have a fundamental difference: depth. And depth defines the experience. Snorkelers enjoy the views as they skim the surface of the water. The colors and sea-life are visible but at a distance. The surface seems safe and natural.
Scuba divers plunge below the surface and experience the life of the sea from a different vantage point. The fish are within an arms length and dart past as others slowly tunnel through the water. They get caught up in the rhythm of the ocean in a new way.
Depth invites one to be immersed in the life of the sea while those who skim the surface only watch vicariously.
I often think about the contrast between skimming the surface of life and daring to go deep. Many times I choose to stay at a safe distance rather than immerse myself in the environment. Sadly, I routinely trade the superficial and shallow for the significant. My lazy heart is the clear culprit in this exchange as I settle for that which is easy and comfortable instead of that which requires effort and intentionality. Over time, the net result is a shallow soul.
One of the challenges before all of us in striving to live in gospel-centered community is certainly our natural proclivity to stay in safe waters. So often we look like a group of snorkelers who are bunched up together peering into the deeper waters but hesitant to dive below.
Our hearts generate a myriad of justifications for why we stay on the surface. It feels more comfortable. Deeper waters present unpredictable challenges. We can’t breathe down there on our own. Control seems like something we possess as we float on top of the water.
But tradeoffs abound. Those of us who voyeuristically hang out on the surface can only hope to see from a distance what is happening in the deep waters below. We don’t experience deeper realities for ourselves; rather, we watch and observe. We are not immersed in the experience but are removed from it.
And don’t confuse depth with complexity. Walking more deeply with the Lord and more deeply with the people of God is not for a certain set of Christian elites. Depth usually has to do more with courageously opening up your heart in vulnerable trust. It means confessing weaknesses. It means bearing one another’s burdens. It means daring to know and be known at a deeper level.
The interesting thing about scuba diving is that it takes some intentional steps, specifically to stay below the surface. Our bodies are naturally buoyant and keep us on the surface. So, scuba divers wear a weight belt to force them down. They override what is natural and comfortable to force themselves below the water.
All of us will have to fight for the deeper waters of faith and community with great intentionality. It doesn’t simply happen. It happens through purposeful intention and grace-driven effort. But the tradeoff is a deeper life.
Josh Patterson is the Lead Pastor of Ministry Leadership at The Village Church. This article first appeared at TVCResources.net.