Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:22
Jesus used lots of familiar, tangible examples as He spoke to people about their spiritual lives and relationship to God. Jesus understood that we can relate to and access truth more easily with these kinds of images.
Every summer for some years now, I have helped to facilitate a course run by Regent College which involves seven days of rowing (or sailing) wooden boats around the Gulf Islands in British Columbia. These are replicas of the sturdy ship’s boats which would have been lowered from the decks of larger vessels to go ashore. They are moored in the ocean all year long. One of the results of that time sitting in the salt water is that marine life, given the least opportunity, starts to build a home on the hull. Barnacles, toredo (ship’s worms), seaweed and various other life forms take hold. For the last number of years in April, a gang of A Rocha folks (where I live and work) go and work on getting those boats ready for the summer. We heave the boats up the beach on logs to dry a bit. Then we get busy brushing, sanding, scraping, cleaning, varnishing, painting and pine tarring. If we left all that life attached to the bottom of the boat, it would do damage to the hull: making holes, degrading the wood, or creating drag as the boat moves through the water. This is an important process to keep on top of, otherwise the load and work required to keep the boat seaworthy becomes impossible to manage! Believe me, a wooden boat is already heavy enough without adding an extra handicap for the rowers.
Can you relate to the idea of damage and drag in your spiritual walk? Thoughts or exchanges with others during the day which take hold in your spirit and begin to worm their way in and settle, leaving a heavy feeling in your heart or gut. Attitudes, doubts, criticisms or negative identities we pick up along the way which start to pull us down into dark places. Our momentum slows, we turn in circles, we lose energy and vision and question God’s direction for our lives. How can we be free of these entanglements which weigh us down? Do we not notice, like the frog in the pot of heating water? Do we compensate?
Regular or daily time keeping company with God gives Him an opportunity to point out to us where our vulnerabilities are, or where we’ve picked up useless, unhelpful ideas or patterns of living. If we spend time noticing our inner lives, we become aware more quickly when something has taken hold in us that needs to be scraped away or pulled off. The practice of the examen—taking a few minutes at the end of your day to reflect on events, experiences, feelings and thoughts with God—is similar to regular maintenance of those boats. How much better to regularly pay attention to what’s needed than to let it accumulate until you are virtually unable to move. God helps us peel off the hitchhikers or pull out the parasites which weigh us down. Therein lies hope!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1-2
Imago Dei Christian Communities
For Group Discussion:
1. How do you recognize the buildup of useless or unhelpful ways of thinking and being in your life?
2. How have you experienced the incapacitating effect of the thoughts and attitudes you’ve picked up and assimilated along the way?
3. What gives you hope in the process of maintenance of your spiritual health and direction towards God?
For Prayer: O God, show me where I am hindered, pulled down or being eaten away. Cleanse me from unhelpful attachments and make me ‘swift and beautiful for thee’.