I am here in my kiddie pool. My feet are touching the smooth plastic bottom which has smiling turtles all over it. There is only about six inches of water in this thing and if I sat down, it might come up to my hips. Maybe. If I lie down, by arms will flail out on the sides and my feet will hang over the edge.My kiddie pool is not on the ground. It is floating. It is drifting and floating and bobbing and sloshing out in the ocean, about fifty feet from shore. It floats magically between the waves like a round bouy. It does not tip over. I am standing up in it, in my six inches of water, and riding it like a surfboard. Seagulls cry overhead. Seaweed drifts by in tangles piles of copper and black. The sun is warm and I can see the shore behind me and the vast stretch of ocean in front of me. The horizon is a straight line that undulates with each wave.
Before you think I have taken acid and am having a really bad trip, let me explain.
My kiddie pool represents what I know about God. How much I understand Him. It is a metaphor for my shallow, finite understanding of God's deep, infinite ways. Like the six inches of water I'm standing in, that is how deep my understanding of THEOLOGY goes. That is how well I am able to wrap my head around the "BIG QUESTIONS OF THE FAITH." You know the ones that Christians discuss, debate and divide over? Cornerstones for disagreement like the Trinity, predestination vs. free will, the 2nd coming, the mysteries of baptism and communion...whether Jesus fulfilled or abolished the law...and how can there be so much pain if God exists? Why did he create those he knew would disobey, kill and rebel against him? I'm standing in just enough knowledge to drown in it, but not swim. I can sit in it, stir it around a bit, feel some satisfaction, but I can't stretch out, move my arms and legs in a rhythm that propels me too far. I mainly just sit and wonder what it would be like to dive out into the ocean. To abandon my kiddie pool - the one that traps me and yet saves me from being lost, keeps me from drowning in this vast sea - this ocean that is God, His Word, His Will, His Ways.
Once in awhile, a wave will wash over the edge of my kiddie pool. Not enough to capsize, just enough to replenish and refresh. It feels awesome. It happened a few weeks ago when I was reading a sermon about the virgin Mary. I had never really studied or understood Mary. Growing up Baptist, you leave that to the Catholics. This author opened my eyes to how Mary truly was "full of grace." God fulfilled his purpose through Mary and will do the same with me. Amazing grace! Wow! A gentle wave flooded into my kiddie pool. I sat there, the cool water now slightly above my hips, and cried for awhile. I wasn't sad. I was enlightened, humbled, amazed.
The other day I read Isaiah 61 and it happened again. I felt like it was the first time I had ever read this passage. This is what Jesus read in the temple! (Luke 4) "Behold the Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because the Lord has annointed Me!" Jesus pointed to this passage after reading it and said to everyone in the temple, THIS IS ABOUT ME! HUNDREDS of years ago, this prophet Isaiah was talking about ME! HERE I AM! Another cool wave came overboard.
I have seen other people in kiddie pools out here in this sea of vastness. Not all their pools have smiling turtles like mine. I've seen flowers, dinosaurs, stars - pink, mint green, light blue - but all plastic, all small. Some people don't seem to realize they are standing in a kiddie pool. They talk and act like they have commanded a great ship to exotic places or have taken a submarine down to the Mariana Trench. They have seen the ocean, traversed the ocean, been IN the ocean, I KNOW THE OCEAN! they say. They don't want to admit that at best, they have dipped their hand into the ocean, or felt the occasional overboard wave. Maybe a few have been snorkeling, just floating along the surface looking down, but most don't look like they have ever been wet. But somehow, they understand it all. They "get it" - this shimmering, powerful, overwhelming ocean - the broad, endless blue and the murky darkness below. They talk like they understand it all, like they've seen all of it, been to every shore, explored the depths. They make me want to paddle away. They make me self-conscience. Doubtful. Small. One guy had on scuba gear. As he passed me, he said he had been "down there" and he pointed over the edge of his kiddy pool.
Down there? Really? Wow. I said. What did you see?
Some new fish. He said.
Not really, mainly blackness. I couldn't see very far.
Well, did you swim around? Look around?
No, I got scared. It was a little scared to be out in such deep water just looking around. The few fish I saw were amazing, but for the most part, I couldn't see much, just a bit here and there when the surface light broke through. I am glad I got to see what I did, but I felt so small out there, kinda lost, dangling, you know?
Yes, I know.
I sat down in my kiddie pool. I reached my hand over the edge and let it float in the water. He paddled over to me and took my hand. Behind him, a woman in a purple kiddie pool with rainbows on it reached out toward us with both hands. He swung her around with one arm toward me and together, we pulled her in toward us. Our boats came together. The edges made a cracking sound when they met, but did not break. We were 3 floating circles.
I've never been in the water, I said.
Me neither said the woman.
I heard there is so much to see.
There is! said the man. There is so much to see and so much to discover and yet this is only one small part of the sea right here below us.
What about what is over there? Out there? The woman asked. She released our hands to point out in various directions.
There is more than we can ever see, the man said. This is just one sea, after all.
There are more seas? The woman asked.
Oh yes, many more. Ones we will never reach. There is so much to discover.
We all looked around at eachother in silence.
Then we stared out at the horizon. The sun was falling toward it. The ocean water was beginning to lose its color while the sky was filling with yellow and orange.
We reached out our hands. Our kidding pools gently clacked together as we pulled ourselves closer. We interlaced our warm fingers, closed our eyes and lifted our chins toward the setting sun. We prayed. We shared where we had been, what we had seen, what we thought we understood. We listened, we learned and we laughed. The sun dropped farther. A wave clapped over the edge of our kiddie pools, filling each one slightly. It was warm.
We paddled toward the shore.