As my birthday gift to me, I took the day off from work and study to enjoy what has been the nicest day in 2014 so far outside. I spent some time at a beach, though not as much as I would have liked because, the way the sun works where I currently am is the opposite from where I grew up, so even on this golden-ray-full day, it was still nippy. Even though the sun is a giant ball of fire. Sigh. Anyway. It was warm enough to be on a shoreline for a bit. I wrote. I read. I stared at the point where the water and the sky meet, though it was, on this day, a bit hard to tell the two apart. Both were trembling with this amazing shifting light.
Closer to shore, the water’s surface is impenetrable with the unaided eye. Who can know its depths from looking, even for hours? Only those willing to brave the frigid waves and wade…patiently…persistently…until they must swim can even begin to see the ocean fully…only to know that they will always be learners, there will always been more to know. In this way, the sea is as people are: unknowable in all its deep down from mere appearance, mysterious even after diving in, cold as all of us yet and inevitably are cold until the fullness of time arrives once again and we find ourselves in the remade world. If you want to know the ocean, you must go deep.
As a scuba diver, this is obviously compelling. I’ve not taken a dive since my senior year of high school and honestly find more anxiety around water than I used to, but I remember hoping that my air wouldn’t run out for hours; there was so much I hadn’t yet seen, so much I could feel I hadn’t yet felt. My favorite thing about scuba diving, though, was not the outcrop of rock full of lobsters waving in the underwater equivalent of a spring breeze, coining the “lobster dance” known only among my family (if you know me in real life, ask me to show you this totally awesome move sometime). It wasn’t the time an octopus thought my dad’s buoyancy vest was a crevice to hide in and ended up coming to the surface with him, spilling out onto the deck of the dive boat like a soggy pile of twitching grape jelly. It wasn’t that the Velcro strapping that secured my air tank to my buoyancy vest somehow came loose during the first five minutes of every night dive I’ve ever taken and, though the first time, my dad had to basically stand on my shoulders so I wouldn’t squirm away because he couldn’t explain what was going on of course (I freaked out the first time, by the last, it was “routine”…as much as a) being underwater, b) at night and c) in a foreign country is “routine”), we’ve got a running joke (also only among the family) that has to do with nighttime and “sticking around.” It was that you are not allowed to dive without a dive buddy no matter who you are: someone to enter the water with, someone to keep within your sight at all times, sometime to share cool finds with, someone to do your safety stop with, (someone to put your tank back on in the dark silence), and someone to go back up with. Going deep takes time. It takes practice. It takes equipment. Mostly, though, it takes partnership.
It’s a trendy thing to have personal “quiet times” but, at the risk of sounding like a heretic, I could never get into them. It really isn’t that I couldn’t find the time, and it really isn’t that I don’t like being alone. It’s that something didn’t feel right in my heart to call reading my mass-produced ESV alone in my room, mentally asking the Spirit to guide me and illuminate these confusing and sometimes offensive words “devotion.” Scuba diving felt more “devotional” than anything I’ve ever done, with the possible exception of riding horses. Perhaps I’m being too literal about this, but one definition of the word “devotion” is “the use of time, money, energy, etc. for a particular purpose.” Check, check, and check in terms of diving. Another definition is “a feeling of strong love or loyalty.” Not to overstate this, but I have this shirt from Cozumel, Mexico, where my dad and I did our open-water dives to get certified as scuba divers over half my lifetime ago; on the back it says: “dive dive dive dive sleep dive dive dive eat dive dive eat dance dive dive dive sleep eat dive dive….now that’s a vacation!”
Of course, I’m not trying advocate for everyone to switch their devotional times to dive times (the surrounding water is WAY too cold for that here anyway, at least for me). I’m not even saying it’s great that I’ve never been able to swing the personal quiet time. I just wonder what things might change, what might shift, what might heal, what might come alive, if we started thinking about devotion like a diver thinks of the ocean where we think of the ocean as like people. What if going deep were a devotional activity, too?