Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Year of Swimming in the Ocean

Just over a year ago, my wife and I were in southern Florida for a family wedding. It was in November, and we are from Chicago, so it was definitely a welcomed trip, weather-wise. It was also a pivotal time for me, because it was around that time that our group was positioning itself to launch the B Church. During that trip, I sensed God explain something very important to me about how I should live and how we should do this B Church thing.

Of course, we wanted to stay as close as possible to the beach, so our hotel was right along the beach front. It was very beautiful and the weather was great. And all the other people there, like us, flocked to this area to escape our much colder settings. Now my wife likes to tan, and she wanted to go down to the pool to "lay out." But I, being blessed with default tan, don't have much need for "laying out", nor do I care for it. So I just brought a book and sat next to her under one of the umbrellas at the pool.

After reading for a bit, I suddenly became unusually agitated by the fact that we (along with a whole lot of other people) were laying around the pool of the hotel while there was the actual BEACH right below us. I got really bothered by that, and I wasn't sure why. So I left the pool and began walking along the beach shore.

The weather wasn't too hot, maybe low 70's, and the water felt cold, so at first I didn't really feel like jumping in to swim. But as I was walking I began to pray a little and then I felt this great impulse, almost like a voice, urging me to jump in. So I did. Then I began praying more intensely, and something dawned on me as I let the waves crash on me--there is a vast difference between the pool and the ocean. The ocean is the real thing and is alive. The pool is man made and artificial. And we can either live and do church like a pool, or we can do it like the ocean.

But many of us have been accustomed to experiencing church the same way pools are set up - they're safe and neat, you can't run, there are scheduled hours of use, and they are perfectly chlorinated and maintained by staff. In pools, the atmosphere and the rules are imposed by the people who create and sustain them. The ocean on the other hand is immense and deep, it maintains itself, and it sets its own rules and makes its own boundaries, it has beautiful sunsets, and natural life to it; it's strong and obviously dangerous, but it's real. In the ocean, the atmosphere and the rules can only be imposed by the person who creates and sustains it...God.

And such a metaphor really excites me because the story of the Bible is an ocean story...not a pool story. So I have determined, to the best of my ability, to live an ocean life instead of a pool life. And to lead this B Church as an ocean church, not a pool church.

And this reminds me of the famed quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery:

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."

I fear, though, that the Church in general has exchanged the crossings of the Red Sea, the walkings on water, and the shipwrecks on Malta for a neatly chlorinated box of water. Has it lost its sense of adventure and how God's kingdom really moves?

Nobody waits up all night to watch the sunset over the diving board. People do not risk their lives to attempt to swim from one side of the pool to the other. Explorers aren't diving into the 8 foot deep end to find new creatures. No kids are waiting at the edge with surf boards once the fat guy cannon-balls into the water.

And neither is our church an inflatable lounger floating in the middle of a resort pool. It is a charter boat 15 miles off shore with a bunch of fishermen on it.

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