A few weeks ago, we went up to the north shore for a day trip. I took the two youngest to play on a rocky beach, while Michael took the two boys fishing. It was highly satisfactory for all, especially considering the two oldest both caught fish on their excursion before coming back to romp around in the water at the beach for a while.
When I got the younger kids to the beach, I laid our blanket out on a sandy area near an outcropping of rocks, not far from the water’s edge, so that I could read (theoretically) while the little two found rocks and put them in a tinfoil pan I’d brought along.
But there was a damper to my peaceful retreat.
Gnats. Beetles. Biting flies.
You see, I’d parked our blanket so close to the shallow part of the water, that the insects thought I was fair game.
There are some superficial benefits to playing near or in the shallows.
It’s safer for young children. It’s within arm’s reach for mothers to snatch them out of danger. It’s convenient for toe dipping.
When Michael came back with the older boys and heard me complaining about the biting flies (even after dousing myself with the bug spray he had brought along), he laughed and said, “Well, of course you’re getting bitten. You’re near the shallows.”
The shallows are a dangerous place to be, if you’re being passive.
I’ve been thinking about spiritual shallows lately. I like to think of myself as a person of action, rather than of passivity. But I’ve found that, with motherhood, passivity has crept up on me. I’ve been sitting in the shallows.
Dallas Willard wrote about a growing interest in spiritual depth that occurred in the late ’90s. He went on to describe how spiritual depth and maturity can occur. I wish I could copy and paste his whole article here, but I’ll just quote it briefly, and you can go read it for yourself.
“While the initiative in the revival and reformation of the soul originally comes from what lies beyond us, we are never merely passive at any point in the process. This is clear from the biblical imperatives to repent and to believe, and–for the person with new life already in them–to put off the old person and put on the new, to work out the salvation that is given to us, etc. etc. It is certainly true, as Jesus said to his friends, “without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) But it is equally true for them that “If you do nothing it will be without me.” In the process of spiritual reformation under grace, passivity does not exclude activity and activity does not exclude passivity…”
Dr. Willard’s antidote for passivity is the practice of spiritual disciplines.
“The aim of disciplines in the spiritual life–and, specifically, in the following of Christ–is the transformation of the total state of the soul. It is the renewal of the whole person from the inside, involving differences in thought, feeling and character that may never be manifest in outward behavior at all. This is what Paul has in mind when he speaks of putting off the “old man” and putting on the new, “renewed to resemble in knowledge the one who created us…” (Col. 3:10)”
One of the spiritual disciplines that I’ve been neglecting for several years….since motherhood really… is that of scripture memorization. As John Piper says in this video clip, if I have scripture in my mind, it will be easier to guard my mind against the lies of the world and detect error. Raise your hand if you could use a little help with discernment in this convoluted culture we live in. I know I could!
I’ve decided to move, actively, and intentionally out of my “shallows” into a more concerted life of spiritual discipline. My first effort will be in studying and memorizing the Sermon on the Mount. It won’t be quick or easy. It will likely take about nine months to a year. In fact, I expect some full-bodied crash landings here and there. But I’ll get up again.
Some of the resources I’ll be studying through are:
“We should not ask, “What is wrong with the world?” —for that diagnosis has already been given. Rather, we should ask, “What has happened to the salt and light?” ~ John Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount