What does it mean to go deeper in our spiritual lives?
My family has probably logged hundreds of hours watching fish on our TV. This primarily stems from our girls’ love of fish. Both of them have been mesmerized by the brightly colored fish swimming around and since we don’t have an aquarium, we watch one on TV. You might think this is strange that we would use our TV as an aquarium, but many you’ve probably logged a multitude of hours watching Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. Whether it’s the aquarium, shark week, or some other show like Blue Planet or Finding Dory, many of us have viewed the depths of the ocean through our TV, but never swam in the depths or in shark infested waters. Why? Because it’s scary. I for one like air and not being eaten by sharks.
This translates into our spiritual lives as well. We desire depth in our relationship with God and have hopefully have made some attempts to go deeper, but have yet to truly venture out into the deep waters. Instead, we choose not to travel very far from where we started. We are like beachgoers who only venture only several yards into the ocean instead of several miles. We are exchanging a perceived depth for a truly profound relationship with God. We read another book about God instead of getting to know God. Instead of letting a passage take us deep into the heart and mind of God, we are simply reading bigger commentaries. Instead of sitting with God in the silence, we are seeking elaborate practices that make us feel like we are going deeper. Instead of truly addressing the emotional and spiritual problems deep within us, we hope that simply changing behaviors will help us be better Christians.
I believe this, because I do this all the time. All of those things above are things I have tried and still continue try sometimes. It’s the spiritual version of watching the fish tank and shark week on TV instead of truly exploring the riches that the ocean has to offer. It’s much safer and simpler and easier to digest. I can walk away with a knowledge of something new without having truly gone swimming in the deep waters.
To truly have a deeper life with God, however, we have to expand our view of what spiritual depth is. It’s more than another commentary, a better book, a contemplative practice, or doing the right thing. The deeper life is primarily about spending actual time with God instead of simply learning about him. It’s about letting God know us, speak to us in our hearts, and then living from that place where he has spoken. I love my books, new practices, and finding knew ways to live out my faith, but I know that these things need to supplement my life with God and not the other way around.
It starts with 2 questions. How well do I know God? How well do I know myself?
First, I’m learning that no matter how well I know the Bible or my faith, my spiritual life is grounded in how well I know God not just what I know about him. Is he real to me? Do I listen for his voice and guidance? I’m guilty of letting my knowledge of God or my actions for him be the foundation of my spiritual life instead of really seeking to know who he is, why he loves us, and listening to hear him.
Second, we have to know who we are deep down inside. It’s not just who we want to be or the persona that we present to the world, but we have to understand why we do the things that we do. What is your personality and your history and how does that shape the way you behave? Knowing who we are and why we do what we do helps us to understand how we build our relationship with God. When we understand the places of hurt inside us and the places where we need to grow, then we can listen better to God speaking into those areas of our hearts.
These questions can become a springboard for a dive into the deeper life. After asking these questions, that’s when it’s good to turn to the tools that you can use that will help your relationship with God to go deeper. Before you try any of those things again, however, I challenge you to read Psalm 103 and ask ask yourself: how well do you know God and how well do you know yourself? Do this for a couple of days and reflect on these questions.